Monday, April 13, 2009

Treasure Hunter

Choosing a good wine can be an unsure and daunting task at times, when standing in front of a long wine shelf that seems to stretch out for a mile with hundreds of bottles from all over the world. I find myself drawn to the fancy bottle with the pretty label. I also wonder, if I splurge and go for the more expensive wines, will I have a winner? However, I have discovered with either case, cool looking labels and higher price tags don’t necessarily guarantee success. After all, we want to discover that one, Ok, maybe two or more bottles of wine that taste like a $200 bottle but only cost you $10. Is there such a treasure?

I discovered one such treasure and what I think is one of the best tasting wines in or out of it’s price point. It is grown and bottled here in the good old USA. I can make such a bold claim being the self proclaimed sommelier that I am and one who delights in a great tasting wine. I believe this is a wine everyone will enjoy.

I stumbled upon this knowledge during lunch one afternoon, killing time in a local wine shop. I found myself staring down those hundred or more bottles of wine. I was hoping to find that one that keeps you going back for more without crushing the wallet. A customer walked into the shop and I over heard her telling the owner that the wine he recommended was the best Merlot that she had ever tasted. Best Merlot, I thought, I like Merlots. Could this be the one? The customer couldn't stop talking about how great the wine was. The owner grabbed a couple more bottles, thanked her for returning and was happy that she had found his recommendation a hit. Since this customer couldn't say enough about this wine, I had to give it a shot and was even willing to step up and pay the $30 to $50 that such a wine would cost. After asking the owner about the wine he directed me to McManis Family Vineyards Merlot at which time I discovered that it was only $10.99. I made my purchase and took it home hoping for the best.

That evening we opened the bottle and served it with our meal. The richness of this Merlot was was like nothing I had tasted before. Bold and smooth with hints of pepper and spices. It turned out to be the treasure I had been looking for.

I have since found that McManis Family Vineyard produces other wines and having tasted them all, my favorite is their Petite Syrah. All of their wines are wonderful but in this sommeliers opinion (remember “self proclaimed”), you can’t beat the Petite Syrah.

Visit your local wine shop. They are always having tastings. (I like tastings, tastings, and more tastings.) The owners can help you pick out just the right wine for any occasion. Being at the right place at the right time (and listening in on other customer conversations) can lead to a great winner.

- D.K. of the Brew Crew

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Olos Wines Presents 'Selected By'

photo by Mario Tarello

You may not have heard of Olos Wines here in the U.S. yet, but I predict that their new line of “Selected By” wines will make a big splash very soon. They are a young, ambitious, Swiss company founded in 2008 whose goal is to provide high quality wines for the discerning consumer. Olos Wines made the strategic move to bring well known Italian viticulturist Stefano Chioccioli on board to hand select high quality wines that best demonstrate the unique terrior of each region. The line of wines is aptly named “Selected By”.

As a young company, Olos Wines has chosen a modern, innovative approach to marketing, labeling and bottling their wines. Each label is unique and pictures an animal or insect that evokes an emotion and best represents the territory. They have chosen to use light weight Bordeaux bottles to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and screw caps instead of corks, maintaining that the wine is allowed to age properly without the risk of damage from the cork. Their motto is “Drink the wine, don’t’ drink the cork!” My mind recognizes the logic, but my heart misses the romance.

Stefano Chioccioli has an extensive wine making resume and began his career in 1985 as a taster and also conducted chemical – oenological testing and ground analysis. He believes that the most important goal in wine making is to achieve a perfect ripening of the grapes. He says that it sounds simple, but isn’t. In bringing the “Selected By” wines to the market he hopes to provide a greater understanding of the history and geography of Italian wines. According to Mr. Chioccioli, a wine maker should produce wines that best exemplify the territory. This requires careful attention throughout the wine making process.

The “Selected By” line of wines are produced from Sauvignon and Pinot grigio from the Veneto, Merlot and Sangiovese from Tuscany, Sirah, Nero d’Avola and Grillo from Sicily and Pinot Nero from Lombardia. Each variety was specifically selected according to the ideal conditions of the climate and soil for each particular grape. The majority of the vineyards are considered “new generation” vineyards being from 10-15 years old. The vineyards may be young but the care and experience demonstrated by Stefano Chioccioli in producing fine wines make the “Selected By” wines worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guided Tasting - Vino 2009 Miami - part 2

This is the second half of our report on the guided tasting experience at Vino 2009 Miami that took place on January 30. We have already talked about the wines we tasted from the regions of Lombardia and Abrusso. Now we will turn our attention to Calabria and Toscana.

Calabria is the region located in southern Italy, in the toe of the boot. Our first wine from the sunny south is Grayasusi 2007 IGT Val di Neto, produced by Ceraudo. Aged four months in barrique and in the bottle for six months, this deep rose colored wine is intensely fruity, with prominent strawberry and spice tones. Ceraudo has been an organic producer since 1992. All stages of wine making take place on the estate, which include stone buildings that have been painstakingly renovated and converted into comfortable apartments for tourists. They also have a restaurant called "Dattilo" - named after the Greek god in mythology. While enjoying lunch, I heard several people remark that this wine was a personal favorite. Next on our asting tray was Puntalice Rosato 2007 DOC Ciro', produced by Senatore Vini. Their vineyards are situated in four main areas of the DOC zone and include 25 hectares under vine. This wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes from Ciro' near Melissa. Puntalice Rosato is the color of rose petals and has a floral nose. Cantine Lavorata produces Rosato 2007 DOC Bivongi. It is a blend of Gaglioppo, Greco Nero and Calabrese grapes. Aged in stainless steel it is rose colored and tastes of strawberry and cherries. The winery was founded in 1958 by Vincenzo Lavorata and is located in Roccella Jonica in the southern part of the Ionian Coast. Our last wine from Calabria, Amanzio 2007,IGT Calabria is produced by Colacino Wines in Marzi. It is 100% Magliocco Canino, aged in stainless steel to bring out the flavors of the terroir. Amanzio has a light fragrance with flavors of fruit and vanilla.

On to Toscana, which is arguably Italy's most famous region and our final region to explore. We will begin with Agostino Petri Riserva 2005 DOCG Chianti Classico produced by Castello di Vicchiomaggio. This intensely ruby, red wine is aged for 24 months in barriques and 12 months in the bottle. You will find fruit and spice on the nose with mature fruit flavors, licorice, chocolate and eucalyptus, followed by a long finish. It is a mix of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Cabernet. Castello di Vicchiomaggio was established in the 5th century, has always produced wine and now boasts a castle, hotel and a winery on the estate. Il Bagatto Rosso 2004, IGT Toscana is produced by Scopone in Montalcino. It is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese and 10% Petit Verdot. This is a wine that showcases the terroir. It has a deep ruby, red color with purple reflections and an intense black berry fragrance. Carpineto produces Carpineto Riserva 2003, DOCG Vino Novile di Montepulciano. It is produced with a minimum 70% Sangiovese and with the balance being made up by Canaiolo and Merlot. Aged 24 months in large Slovanian oak barrels and 12 months in bottles, it has a ruby, red color, intense nose and balanced flavors. Carpineto was founded in 1976 by Giorgio Sacchet and Antonio Zaccheo. Their vineyards are spread over four estates. Our final wine is the venerable Brunello di Montalcino 2003, DOCG produced by Innocenti Livio. By law a wine labeled Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese. The color is a pleasing deep ruby, red with garnet reflections. It smells of wild berries and its naturally high acidity is balanced with tannins and minerality. The Livio estate consists of 5 hectares of vineyard plantings.

So that's it. The end of our journey... or maybe it's just the beginning. Not all of these wines are yet available in the U.S., but most are, so I encourage you to seek them out and do a tasting of your own. Everyone's senses are custom made, so you may have a different impression of the fragrances and flavors of these wines. Let us know what you think by logging into our forum (Barrel Brew Blab) and writing your own tasting notes or review.

-L.W. from the Brew Crew
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guided Tasting - Vino 2009 Miami - part 1

On January 30 The Italian Trade Commission brought Vino 2009 to the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, Florida. The morning session consisted of a guided tasting followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch. Sixteen different wines were poured from the regions of Lombardia, Toscana, Abruzzo and Calabria while moderator Lyn Farmer, the Senior Editor of Wine News, walked us through each wines history, characteristics and vinification. We will begin with Lombardia and Abruzzo for this first article and save Tuscany and Calabria for the next installment.

We began our tasting with four sparkling wines from Lombardia, which is located in the north of Italy. The first, Ca’Maiol Brut Spumonte DOC Lugana is produced by Provenza located on the shores of Lake Garda. The estate is 100 acres made up of four separate vineyards. Provenza was established in 1967 by Walter Contato who also founded the Consorzio of Lugana which protects and enforces DOC regulations. This sparkler is produced in the classic method and aged three years. It contains a minimum of 90% Trebbiano grapes and has a delicate nose of peach, almonds and tropical fruit. Next we tasted Saten Brut 2007 DOCG Franciacorta. Franciacorta refers to the region as well as the product. The wine is produced by G. Ricci Curbastro & Sons, who hand pick the grapes for gentle pressing and ferment in French oak barrels. The estate has 28 hectares under vine, a wine making and farm implement artifacts museum, eight agriturismo apartments and a tasting hall. The “Saten” is made with 100% chardonnay grapes and has the fragrance of ripe fruit, flowers and nuts. Number three was Castel San Giorgio Brut Rose’ 2004 DOC, produced by San Giorgio in the center of Oltrepo’ Pavese. San Giorgio is one of the oldest vineyards in Oltrepo’ Pavese, purchased by the Perdomini family in 1978. They have 30 hectares of vineyards and a wine store where one can taste their wines along with other local products. They will even arrange full meals upon request. This Brut Rose’ is 90% Pinot Nero, 10% Chardonnay and shows off a pleasing rose color with a hint of orange, and peach and floral fragrances. Our final wine from this region was Montebello Rose’ Metodo Classico DOC from Oltrepo’ Pavese, produced by Ca’ Montebello. The estate was established in 1936 and has about 35 hectares of vineyards with grape varietals including, Pinot Nero and Barbera. Montebello Rose’ is 100% Pinot Nero, hand picked grapes and spends 18-20 months on the lees. The color is a bright rose with pinpoint bubbles and a delicate fragrance.

With our fifth wine, Spiria Cococciola 2007 IGT, we move on to the Abruzzo region, located south and east of Tuscany on the Adriatic side of Italy. The producer is Cantina Colle Moro, but unfortunately this wine isn’t yet available in the U.S. Hopefully they were able to find an importer at the convention. I would hate to have to wait until my next trip to Italy to sample another glass of this wine. It has a pale straw color with a bit of a greenish hue, delicate nose with hints of green apple and flowers. It is balanced, dry and very smooth and creamy. Lucanto 2007 DOC Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo produced by Torre Raone is number six. It is 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, the color of straw, intensely and persistently fragrant, dry, balanced, smooth and creamy with spice on the finish. Next in line was Pecorino Colle dei Venti 2007, IGT Terre di Chieti, produced by Caldora Vini. Pecorino is the name of the ancient grape that makes 100% of this wine. It does not refer to the goats milk cheese we all know and love. Caldora Vini is part of an area co-op called Ortono. Their most popular wine is Yuma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo made from very old vines belonging to “Soggiorno Proposta” which is an organization dedicated to helping people recover from drug addiction. To return to our Pecorino… the grapes are hand picked and the wine is aged six to seven months in lightly toasted Austrian Oak barrels, producing a wine of a light straw color with greenish reflections. It smells of white fruits, pears and a hint of balsamic. It has good acidity and a long finish. Our last wine from Abruzzo is Sorab Pecorino 2007, IGT Colline Pescaresi, produced by Contesa di Rocco Pasetti. Made from 100% Pecorino grapes, this modern winery boasts a low impact method of wine making that produces wines with a strong link to the territory. This wine is bright yellow in color with herbal notes and a smokey finish.

Stay tuned for my next installment of the guided tasting where we will explore samplings from Tuscany, an area that is familiar to many, and the southern region of Calabria. Thank you to the Italian Trade Commission for introducing us to so many great wines and the fascinating people who produce them.
- the Brew Crew
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bio- Beer: Coming Soon to a Health Food Store Near You

A 2003 BBC news article reported that the old Guinness slogan “Guinness is good for you” might just contain an element of truth. A University of Wisconsin study indicates that a pint of the stout a day may work as well as an aspirin to help prevent the clots that can cause heart attacks. Guinness stopped touting the health benefits of its brew decades ago. Recently, however, a group of Rice University students participating in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition began a quest to engineer a cancer fighting health beer they have dubbed “BioBeer”.
Rice’s iGem team, the BiOWLogists, are using genetic engineering to develop a strain of brewing yeast that will ferment beer while also producing a pharmacologically significant amount of resveratrol. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring compound found in a few foods such as peanuts, blueberries and red wine. Studies have shown it to have cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits in mice and other animals. While resveratrol’s health effects have not been clinically proven for humans, its presence in red wine is often credited for the “French Paradox”, the apparent contradiction between the rich French diet and their relatively low rate of cardiac issues.
The Rice BiOWLogists still have a lot of research to do before they are ready to produce their first bottle of BioBeer, but they did take home a gold medal and second place for best presentation in the 2008 iGEM competition for the work they have done so far to build a beer-fermenting, resveratrol-producing strain of brewing yeast.
Congratulations, BiOWLogists! And, remember, always consume BioBeer, and its more conventional cousins in a responsible manner.
-the Brew Crew
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Vino 2009 Distinguished Service Awards

by the Italian Trade Commission
2/6/09 The Italian Trade Commission, New York, has announced its first Distinguished Service Awards for professionals in the wine industry who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the understanding, appreciation and sales of Italian wines in the United States. The awards will be presented during the Italian Trade Commission’s inaugural Vino 2009 - Italian Wine Week, which will commence in Boston January 23-24, continue to New York January 26-28 and conclude in Miami on January 30.
For information visit
"We want to recognize those working in the wine industry in the United States who have helped make Italian wines the number one imported wines in America today. These are individuals who have devoted their lives to the appreciation of Italian wines, to the country of Italy and to the Italian way of life," said Aniello Musella, Trade Commissioner and Executive Director: "These awards will represent a Who’s Who of the Italian wine industry in the United States. We intend to recognize those who are currently working in the industry as well as those no longer with us."
Awards will be presented in the following categories: Restaurateur/Retailer, Journalist/Educator and Importer/Distributor based on the number of years an individual has been in the profession. A gala awards dinner announcing the Award attended by wine industry leaders from the U.S. and Italy will take place on January 27, 2009. At the dinner eight Hall of Fame honorees will be announced and presented special recognition awards.
Vino 2009 is open exclusively to wine and food professionals, including importers, distributors, educators and journalists from around the nation. The program will include a series of seminars, tastings and discussions led by some of the country’s most knowledgeable industry leaders covering a wide range of topics.
Winners Announced!
The award categories are Hall of Fame, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Distinguished Awards. Eight Hall of Fame honorees were named.
Burton Anderson - award winning author
Darrel Corti - Co-owner of Corti Bros.
Victor Hazan - Author, opened cooking schools in Bologna and Venice.
Leonardo Lacascio - president and CEO of Winebow Inc. Leading importer of premium
Italian wines.
John Mariani Jr. - Chairman Emeritus, Banfi Vintners and Castello Banfi.
Hubert Opici - Chairman Opici Wine Group
Pier Selvaggio - Owner of the Valentino Restaurant Group.
Anthony Terlato - Chairman of Terlato Wine Group
Click her to see the complete list of honorees.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vino 2009 Coming to New York, Boston and Miami

by the Italian Trade Commission

The Italian Trade Commission will present Vino 2009, its first annual Industry Convention of Italian Wine in America, during Italian Wine Week, January 23-30.

The program will dick off with seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, January 23-25, followed by a three day conference in New York City, January 26-28, at the Waldorf Astoria, Palace and Hilton New York hotels. Italian Wine Week will come to a close in Miami, on January 30th, with a final day of tastings, to be held at the Intercontinental Hotel.

For and early registration, or just a sneak preview of the event schedule, please visit

All events taking place during Italian Wine Week will be open exclusively to wine and food professional, including wine importers, wholesalers, distributors, educators and journalists from around the nation.

The program will feature a series of seminars, tastings and discussions covering a wide range of topics, led by some of the country's most knowledgeable industry leaders.

Speakers will include Peter Morrell(Morrell & Co), Patrick Fegan (Chicago Wine School), David Lynch (Wine author), Daren MacNeil (The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone), Tome Maresca (Journalist and author), Mary Ewing Mulligan M.W. (International Wine Center), Fred Plotkin (Author and journalist), David Rosengarten (The Rosengarten Report), Richard Valeriani ( NBC News), Elin McCoy (Wine journalist for Bloomberg),Harriet and Bill Lembeck (The New School), Fred Tibbitts (Global Wine accounts), Bill Earle (President of NABI), and Kevin Zraly, among others.

"The program is designed to bring together all the different interests within the Italian wine business and raise greater awareness for Italy's range of wines and their marketing potential, both on and off premise," said Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the USA. "Vino 2009 has been designed to foster business relationships between Italian wine producers and buyers in the U.S., and to address trends and transitions in the wine business."

The highlight of the Convention will be a day long grand tasting of Italian wines, which will take place at the Hilton New York Hotel on January 28th, featuring over 250 vintners from Italy, including the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino, with many of their leading members and the participation of producers delegations from the regions of Abruzzo, Calabria Lombardia, Toscana and Veneto as well as many U.S. importers. Also of notable interest will be the presentation of the first Distiguished Service Awards, when special recognition certificates will be presented to industry professionals who have devoted their lives to the marketing, education and to fostering the appreciation of Italian wines in America. "The Distinguished Service Awards will recognize wine professionals who have demonstrated a longtime commitment to the Italian wine industry," said Musella: "These are individuals who have devoted their lives to the selling of Italian wines, the country of Italy and the Italian way of life."

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Beer Making Success Story

Have you ever dreamed of making your own beer? Maybe you thought it would be too difficult, or a waste of time and money to attempt to craft a beer that could turn out to be undrinkable. Maybe, like me you listened to old stories of exploding bottle caps and foul tasting brews that not even the guy down the street, who was known to drink almost anything would touch. Let me encourage you to forget the horror stories and go for it! Become the Master Brewer of you own home brewing kingdom. Making beer has rewards of satisfaction and accomplishment. Not to mention the decided benefit of drinking and serving a great tasting beverage you made yourself. I personally never tire of hearing "This is really good, and I mean really good beer! Where did you buy it?"

This is one of my favorite home brewery stories.
My father was visiting shortly after I had brewed one of my first batches of Brown Ale. He was unaware of my new hobby, so I casually handed him one of my new beers cold from the fridge and waited to see his reaction. He drank it all, but made no comment about how he liked it. I was disappointed, but was relieved that he drank it without spitting any out. The next day, dad asked me where I bought that beer I had served him yesterday. Still not sure if he enjoyed it or not, I hesitated to tell him that I made it myself. Pausing just a moment I said, "I didn't exactly buy it at a store. I made it." Stunned he said "No wonder I couldn't find it in the store! I spent fifteen minutes looking for a plain bottled beer with a silver cap!" He was surprised that home brew could be so tasty. If you have never tasted home brewed beer, I think you will be pleasantly surprised too.

In the weeks to follow the Brew Crew will take you through the steps of crafting your own beer. We hope you will come back to experience the journey with us.
The Brew Crew
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

EU Commission Reports Italian Wine Ranks #1!

by the Italian Trade Commission

A reason to uncork and celebrate throughout Italy: European Union Commission reports Italian wines now rank #1 in the world!

Italian wine producers and their U.S. importers are celebrating. After a decade, Italy has regained it's leadership position as the number one wine producer in the world. For the past ten years France has maintained this position. While final data will be released in late January, the EU Commission estimates that at the conclusion of this year's harvest Italy has experience an eight percent growth in production, close to 47 million hectoliters of wine. In comparison, wine production in France has decreased by five percent to 44.4 million hectoliters of wine.

With the 2008 harvest just concluding, Giuseppe Martelli, General Director of Assoenologi (The Italian National Association of Enologists)comments that "overall 2008 was a mixed year depending on the region. Among white wines,strong harvests prevailed in Trentino Alto-Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The predominantly red wine regions of Piedmont and Tuscany also appear to have noteworthy harvests."

The news couldn't be timelier for the Italian Trade Commission. From January 23rd through the 30th, the Italian Trade Commission will present Vino 2009- Italian Wine Week, the largest conference on Italian wine ever held in the U.S. exclusively for wine industry professionals.

Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the U.S. remarks "This is a historic moment for Italy's wine producers. Italy has regained it's leadership position in the global production of quality wines thanks to our producers' steadfast commitment to quality." "Vino 2009" he continues "will provide a unique forum for wine buyers and marketers to meet with producers, taste quality wines from all over Italy and discuss important trends and issues relevant to the Italian wine business with the most informed people in the industry." Vino 2009 will kick off January 23rd at the Boston Wine Expo with seminars and a trade tasting. It will continue in New York January 26th through the 28th with a series of seminars led by the nation's leading authorities on Italian wines at the New York Palace and Hilton Hotels. A grand tasting on January 28th will feature more than 250 producers and importers. Vino 2009 will conclude in Miami at the Intercontinental Hotel on January 30th with a seminar and tasting. Five wine producing regions of Italy will be showcased: Abruzzo, Calabria, Lombardia, Toscana and Veneto as well as more that 40 producers from Brunello di Montalcino. For more information, program schedule and reservations visit
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Barrel and Brew team is anxiously awaiting January 30 and Vino 2009. We are planning a road trip to attend the event in Miami. It is sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission and all of the major Italian wine producers will be there.
So in February you can read all about our experiences at this major tasting event as well as view photos. We hope to come home with a lot of information to share, and hopefully all of our oenophile friends out there will find it interesting.
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