I am not going to talk about the film with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, nor the last film that starred a future winemaker.  I was at the Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan tasting some wines.  I am sure that I make a pest of myself when I am there, as I am hastily writing some cryptic notes and trying to capture a photograph of the wine and the label.  I am that guy that makes other people groan when they are trying to taste a wine and having fun.  I also try not to monopolize the conversation, not because I am so knowledgeable, but because I want to learn as much as I can, in a short period of time.  I figure that what I don’t glisten at the moment, I hope to find additional information on the web and help someone else out.

I was tasting a wine from Atlas Wines called Omen Red Blend 2016.  To be candid, if I was just out shopping for something new, I may have passed this bottle by because of the rather prosaic name.  I am so used to wineries coming out with an exotic name for a blend, that Red Blend is rather boring, but when I look back, that is exactly what the label describes.  Here was a wine that was fifty percent Syrah, twenty-seven percent Barbera, sixteen percent Petite Sirah and seven percent Zinfandel.  The wine carried the Sierra Foothills AVA and I have had some other wines from that area.  The wine was aged for nine months in French Oak, of which twenty-five percent was new and there were only eight-hundred-twenty-five cases produced.  Even though the tastings are done using the Coravin system, so the wine is basically fresh from the bottle and one has to swirl it a bit, before the tasting, I could tell that it was a full-bodied wine and a pretty wine as well.

What really geeked me, and I guess that I am a wine nerd to a degree, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be sharing information every other day.  While the wine carries the Sierra Foothills AVA, the first three varietals were actually grown in the Fair Play AVA, and if I had read about this district before, it did not register with me and I had to do some research.  I like wine, but I also, if possible like to speak with some basic knowledge and who knows how often in Michigan I would find another wine with Fair Play AVA.  Fair Play AVA is entirely found inside of the El Dorado and Sierra Foothills AVA’s.  It is only thirty-six square miles in size, which in Michigan is how big original townships were platted, as I can tell you, that I live in a former township, now a city that still has the original six by six square miles.  Fair Play is currently having three-hundred-fifty acres planted with additional two-hundred more acres in the planning stage.   This is the esoteric information that I like to carry around with me and it is amazing what one can learn from tasting a wine.

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Two Distinct Cabs

As always, it is not too difficult for me to find some time to do some wine tasting.  I mean, not that I really need any wines to add to the cellar, even if I had room, but one never knows what lays ahead.  On one of my trips to Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan I had a chance to sample some wines.  If one is not prepared they will be over-powered by the tastings that are offered in the shop.  In one area they are doing tastings of domestic wines, and in another section of the shop there are imported wines.  The shop is not that large and after you take into account the racks and cases of wines all around, add the help and then add the customers, you are talking about a ready-made party of new friends.  The shop uses the Coravin system to keep the wines sound, between tastings and I probably drive them nuts taking photographs of the wine in the glass next to the bottle.  I will mention two wines made by established wine making families.

The first wine that I had was by the Michael Mondavi Family, their Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.  The Michael Mondavi Family was formed in 2006, and of course the Mondavi family is one of the old guard in Napa Valley.  This company has a couple of different series and the Emblem series is one.  The wine is a blend of seventy-nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon and is blended with Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel.  After fourteen days of fermentation on the skins, the wine is then aged in small French Oak barrels for eighteen months.  I found the wine to have a good nose, deep color and a nice long finish; a wine that I could really chew.  This was not a bargain Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was affordable.

The other family wine that I tried was a new one for me, but that is very easy, for me to find new winemakers.  The Marietta Cellars Family Series Armé Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.  The Family Series pays homage to the seven winemakers in the family.  The wine is estate grown and they have three properties in the North Coast/Sonoma County area.  This wine was eighty-six percent Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance being Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  There were seven-thousand cases produced.  This wine reminded me of an Old-World Claret in the best-case description.  This wine I might add is also very affordable, especially for the quality that it displayed.  I was very happy with this wine and I could have gone for seconds on it, it was that good.

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Two For Eighty

We were recently invited out to celebrate a couple who were both turning eighty this year.  The party was hosted by their children and they had a full turnout of guests to enjoy the festivities.  The children grew up with my Bride and the parents are friends with my in-laws, so I kind of sat back and watched my Bride revel in the get-together.  They had made a video of their life that was playing on a big screen television that they brought in, and of course, even though gifts were not encouraged, everyone seemed to bring something.

The party was held at a Buddy’s Pizzeria, because it had a large private room, and was rather centrally located for the children of the parents who were being honored.  Buddy’s is rather an institution in Detroit, as they started out as a blind pig in 1946 and became legit, rather quickly.  They are nationally known for their pizzas, usually getting into the top ten of most lists.  The dinner was set up family style and there were two kinds of salads, an antipasto and a Greek-style, and I am always amazed that that pizzerias have a Greek salad, but what do I know.  There were platters of mostaccioli for all of the guests and then there were pizzas.  This was the first time that I have ever eaten their pizza, I have been to several of the different locations, but I never had pizza.  They are credited for the creation of the “Detroit-Style” thick crust square pizza.  Tradition has it that necessity was the creation, as they secured these “pans” that were used in industry to hold nuts and bolts for an assembly line.  I was a little surprised that the main cheese used for the pizza was Wisconsin Brick cheese, so it was totally a different taste than what I was expecting.

We each only had one glass of wine as we had quite a bit of driving to do after the party.  My Bride had a glass 0f Bollini Pinot Grigio Trentino DC 2016.  The wine was cold pressed and settled for sixty hours and then low temperature vinification in Stainless Steel for twenty-five days and finally spent four to five months on the lees, also in Stainless Steel.  The wine had a nice, but not overly crisp taste with just a tinge of minerals.  I had the Santa Martina Rosso Toscana IGT 2016 from Tenute Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari.  The Folonari family has been in wine production since the late 1700’s and is still family owned and operated.  The wine was forty percent Sangiovese and then the balance was equally split among Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  With the additional three varietals, the wine had to have the Toscana IGT designation and almost every restaurant seems to carry a “Super Tuscan” as opposed to a Tuscan wine.  I have to admit that with those four grapes, the wine was not that over-powering and I think that my Bride had the better of the two wines.  We were there for the celebration and not for the food and wine, so all was fine.  A good time was enjoyed by all.

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Adieu Louisville

It was our last night in Louisville and outside of the commute, it was very pleasurable.  My Bride had finished up her Continuing Education credits which are necessary for one of her designations.  As for me I just sat in the lap of luxury and tried to catch up on some of computer work, I mean I work so hard.  I also had a chance to start packing some of the suitcases ahead of time.  All we had to do when we got up the next day was strip the bed linens and launder them, as well as the towels; and it was convenient as there was a washer and a dryer in the cabana suite.

We were going to the main house and join them for dinner that evening.  My Sister-in-Law was preparing a dinner and I was fascinated watching her prep the dinner.  We were going to have salmon done in parchment and I just watched how easy she made the whole dinner appear, even to the point of adding some wine into the packets before cooking them.  She was also making a special salad and she had some great heirloom tomatoes that she had picked up that day, during her running around.  It was just a laid-back evening and it was good to take it easy.

I opened up a couple more bottles that I had brought with us for the trip.  The first wine that I opened during the prep period was one wine that I thought I might have opened for Thanksgiving, but it was never opened.  The bottle of wine was from Domaine Saint Barbe and was “Terres Rouge” 2013, which just translates to “Red Lands.” This wine carries the Appellation Macon-Burgy Controlee and is a red wine from the Maconnais. To carry this Appellation Controlee the white wines must be Chardonnay and the red wines must either be Pinot Noir or Gamay. Domaine Saint Barbe has eighty acres of Gamay vines planted and they are a mix of Gamay, Gamay de Chaudenay, Gamay de Bouze and Gamay Freau.  It was a full-bodied wine from the region and I guess that I am not that knowledgeable or that my taste buds could discern all the nuances of the different Gamay grapes, but it went down very easily and by then it was time to open the second bottle to let it breath a bit.  I was really looking forward to them trying this wine as our hosts both enjoy big reds.  I had brought a bottle of the Yao Ming, and my Brother-in-Law enjoys basketball, mostly collegiate and he takes his one son to some of the games.  He knew that Mao Ling had retired, but he did not know that after he retired from sports in July 2011, he began a new career as a winemaker in November 2011, barely enough time to realize that he had retired. Yao Family Wines owns no vineyards in Napa Valley, but they do have a tasting room in St. Helena, with contracts with vineyards in Coombsville, Atlas Peak, Oak Knoll District and St. Helena, but the wines carry the Napa Valley AVA. The Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 was the perfect wine to end the evening with. The wine was almost entirely Cabernet Sauvignon, but there was 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, and of the Cabernet Sauvignon there were three different clones and each was vinified separately before the blending. Here was a wine that was aged for eighteen months in French Oak, of which 65% was new, and they had created a wonderful drinking wine even with a high 14.3 Proof, and I knew that this would be the last of the case that I would open up as I think it will require about ten years and then this wine would be wonderful and by then I am not sure how much of this vintage will still be around.  There were twenty-eight-thousand cases produced of this wine and I think that I heard that it was sold out at the winery.  I had chosen the proper wine for the last night and yes, all that was left was the bottle and the cork.

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Paulie May Have Moved Slow…

“It was like he had two families. The first time I was introduced to all of them at once, it was crazy. Paulie and his brothers had lots of sons and nephews. And almost all of them were named Peter or Paul. It was unbelievable. There must have been two dozen Peters and Pauls at the wedding. Plus, they were all married to girls named Marie. And they named all their daughters Marie. By the time I finished meeting everybody, I thought I was drunk.”  If you recognized that quote, you will understand how the flabbergasted I was during our dinner at Vincenzo’s in Louisville.  I watched a couple being led to a table, and the gentleman shook his head and pointed that he wanted to sit in the back of the restaurant and it was the table next to ours.  I nudged my Bride and indicated that the gentleman and his wife that were being seated at the next table was Paul Sorvino, to me Paul Cicero from Goodfellas and to her it was Phil Cerreta from Law & Order.  Now you have to understand that my children probably watched Goodfellas daily for years and the dialogue is etched perfectly in their and my memory for ever.

After they had given their orders, I nervously, walked over and had to tell Mr. Sorvino that my one grandson is named Paul, based on his character and he smiled.  He introduced me to his wife and we had a bit of small talk, and then I hesitantly asked if I my Bride could take a photo of me and him, and he graciously called the waiter and had the waiter take a group photo of the table.  I was star struck, I thanked him, my Bride went back to our table and I went outside to send only the photo to my kids.   My Favorite Daughter said “go ask him if they put too many onions in the sauce! LOL” My son who named his son Paul said “I’m a little jealous lol” and I responded “me too.”

My Bride was so impressed with his graciousness, that she called our waiter and requested that we pick up their drinks.  Our dinner party was still going on when the Sorvino’s called for their tab and he noticed that the drinks were missing from the bill, and the waiter told him, what we had done.  He looked over and waved and smiled, and I got up to thank him once again.  Of course, my Bride thought that I was monopolizing his time.  It just goes to show you, that you have to watch the room.  I was in Seventh Heaven and I have to admit that I am not jaded yet, at my age.

“I felt he used too many onions, but it was still a very good sauce.

Vinnie, don’t put too many onions in the sauce.

I didn’t put too much onions, uh, Paul. Three small onions. That’s all I did.

Three onions? How many cans of tomatoes you put in there?

I put two cans, two big cans.

You don’t need three onions.”

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A Birthday at Vincenzo’s

While we were in Louisville, we went out to celebrate our nephew’s girlfriend’s birthday and she was turning twenty-one.  I know for most it is a big celebration, but back in the day, I was never carded, so my birthday when I reached the age of majority was not a big deal, and in fact I had lucked out, even more so, because they had moved the age to eighteen and then back to twenty-one when I hit that age.  The son chose the restaurant and he chose Vincenzo’s, one of the premier independent restaurants in the city, and near and dear to the family as he is a major benefactor to FEAT of Louisville; Families for Effective Autism Treatment, and in fact, right on the corner was the FEAT mascot.  The son also engineered a surprise for his girlfriend, as her parents came in for the dinner from Indianapolis, so she was really excited.

There was six of us already seated at the table when the couple came in, and we were all looking at the menu and were hiding our faces, for the surprise, and it was just fun. Our waiter got into the act and carded her and said that because she didn’t have the proper “adult” driver’s license, that she couldn’t be served and I think the table did a group heavy sigh, until we realized that he was having some fun with her.  Through the course of the evening, both Vincenzo and his brother Agostino, the head chef came out, to make sure everyone was enjoying the meal.  There was a lot of great dishes ordered.  My Bride ordered, and I could almost guarantee that she would order the Branzino.  It was a pistachio-encrusted Sea Bas topped with Vegetable Caponata and garnished with King Crab meat.  I had the Maiale All’a Rancio, which was a Berkshire Pork Tenderloin stuffed with walnuts, spinach, carrots, apples and Brandy with an Evan Williams Single Barrel reduction sauce.   For dessert there was a special birthday cake that was shared by all.

In keeping with the theme of the restaurant we started off with the third wine from Tenuta dell ‘Ornellaia.  The wine is made by the Frescobaldi family which has been producing wines for seven-hundred years.   We had a bottle of Le Volte dell ‘Ornellaia Toscana IGT 2015.  Ornellaia is one of the most famed of the “Super Tuscan” wines as they use vinifera that is not indicative of the area.  This wine was a blend of sixty-seven percent Merlot, twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance was Sangiovese (the grape of Tuscany).  Each varietal was fermented separately in Stainless Steel, followed by malolactic fermentation again in Stainless Steel, then aged for ten months in Barrique and Cement tanks.  My Brother-in-Law wanted something a bit bigger for the second wine and he went with a Barolo.  The Azienda Agricola Gianfranco Alessandra Barolo DOCG 2012 was his selection.  Here was a relatively new-comer for Barolo as they are only in their second generation of producing wines.  A smaller estate, but Estate Grown and Bottled, this wine delivered the taste of the Nebbiolo grape the way I think it should be made, though we were drinking it quite young, as most Barolo wines need at least ten years to start mellowing out.  It was a great night of family, food and wine.

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A Night In

We had a quiet night in Louisville as the next night we were all going out for a big dinner.  We had a wonderful lunch and we were just going to relax for the evening.  My Bride was busy getting her business taken care of, as she had to look forward to two days of continuing education classes to maintain one of her professional designations, everything else was a bonus.   Your kindly old Raconteur can always find something to do.  We were all getting ready for a dinner in and our hosts were getting the barbecue ready for the first time.  We were going to have grilled salmon with a salad and some sides.  We had brought some wine with us, and of course our hosts had their cellar as well.

They have recently been enjoying Sauvignon Blanc instead of their usual Chardonnay wines, so I thought that I would bring one that I just recently had and really enjoyed.  The Ladera Sauvignon Blanc 2016 was the wine I tasted and bought, as I was that impressed with the wine.  This wine is a blend of three different clones of Sauvignon Blanc; Clone #1, Liparita and Sauvignon Musque.  Since they are a mountain vineyard the fruit was harvested in the evening to keep it cool.  The fruit was whole cluster pressed and cool settled for twenty-four hours.  Then the juice was aged Sur Lie in both Stainless Steel, which was seventy-six percent, and French Oak of which nine percent was new; for six months.  The wine had a perfume nose that belied just the typical grapefruit and citrus that one expects from this grape in the New World, with a soft light color and a very long finish, which really impressed me.  I usually like a Sauvignon Blanc in the summer to make the hot days more bearable, but this wine is not to be quaffed, but more to be enjoyed with like-minded friends.  I think that I found a couple of converts to this particular wine, and it was the first time that my Bride had it as well, as I made her wait for the right moment to open one of the bottles.

The type of wine that I thought we would have, would have been a Pinot Noir, but they opened up a rather big bold Cabernet Sauvignon for the grilled salmon.   It was a new wine for me, and it was a rather experimental and new wine being made in Washington State with a flashy label, and you know that I enjoy unique label art as well.  The back of the bottle states “Street art bears an uncanny resemblance to winemaking.  For both, the environment affects the final art, resulting in a collaboration between artist and landscape.”  The wine is Intrinsic Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 of Columbia Valley.  After a couple of years of experimentation, they have developed what they call “extreme maceration” where the wine stayed in constant contact with the skins for nine months after harvest.  Fifty percent of the wine was produced this way.  The wine was a blend of using both neutral French Oak and concrete vats for the aging and fermentation.   It had a big bold taste and was easy to drink immediately.   The tannins seemed to be in balance right from the get go and it was an interesting wine.

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