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Punt e Mes - A Classic Red Vermouth

Date: Sun, Mar 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

A benchmark Italian red vermouth that is both (thrice?) pleasantly bitter, slightly sweet, andcompletely delicious.The formula was developed in 1870 in Antonino Carpano's bar in Piedmont, and the distinctive 15-herb recipe is still a family secret. Punt e Mes was made by the Carpano familyin Turin until 2001, when Distillerie Fratelli Branca of Milan bought it.Punt e Mes isvermouth in its finest form. I enjoy it by itself with an orange peel and a single, 2 inch craft-cocktail ice cube. It also adds polish to a wide variety of classic cocktails. The label looks like a funky1960'sItalian movie poster. Could easily form the foundationofa vermouth bar concept that I am currently seeking investors for.

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Di Giovanna Grillo (Sicilia) 2009

Date: Wed, Mar 6, 2013 Wine Tasting

A delicious everyday white from Di Giovanna, a 100 hectare (56 under vine) organicestate located almost at Sicily’s geographic center, above the city of Sambuca. The winery is run byfifth generation brothers Gunther and Klaus Di Giovanna (Sicilian father/German mother). The wine is 100% Grillo-a variety in the past used to be blended with Chardonnay or Inzolia but here proves that it can standall on its own. Aromas ofpineapple,peaches and grapefruit (watch your drug interactions) Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Brilliant acidity. Goes well with anything you would squeeze a lemon on.

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Hail Bianco Vermouth - The Astoria Vecchio Cocktail

Date: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 Wine Tasting

In February of last year, Jason Wilson of the Washington Post wrote about white vermouth and its place in the craft cocktail movement. In this "blogarized" post, I add to Mr. Wilson's thoughts.

Real cocktail drinkers know that no ingredient is more important to a well made cocktail than vermouth. Vermouth is what the icing is to the cake, the top hat to the tails, the bow tie to the schnug; it’s what makes a craft cocktail worth your time. It’s also an ingredient that bartenders, both professional and at home, are taking better care of; treating it as a wine that must be refrigerated and is best used within a few weeks. Consequently, more people are sipping martinis with a good portion of dry vermouth rather than “very very dry” (otherwise known as a glass of gin), and with more higher-end sweet vermouths on the market, Manhattans and Negronis have never been better.

With vermouth awareness at its highest level since before Prohibition, a third member of the vermouth family still, however, doesn’t get much attention. Everyone knows dry and sweet vermouths and their many uses, but a mystery to most drinkers is the vermouth known as bianco (if it’s Italian) or blanc (if it’s French); i.e. “white” vermouth.

Not that white vermouth is anything new. Martini has been making its bianco vermouth since about 1910. In Italy, bianco is the most popular vermouth by far, and accounts for more than half of Martini’s production. Go to any bar at happy hour, and you’ll see Italian young people ordering bianco vermouth on the rocks, with a twist of lemon. In the United States, however, many liquor stores don’t even carry a white vermouth.

The difference between dry and white vermouth is significant. White vermouth has distinct aromas of thyme and oregano and notes of cloves and vanilla, striking a unique balance between sweet and savory. Many foolishly use dry vermouth when a recipe calls for bianco/blanc/white vermouth -- perish the thought.

A terrific use of white vermouth is the Astoria Vecchio, a twist on the classic early 20th century Astoria cocktail which uses white vermouth (I prefer Dolin) instead of dry and changes the gin to genever, a Dutch precursor to gin with a malt wine base, or Old Tom gin, a malty style prevalent in the 19th century -- especially a barrel-aged Old Tom such as Ransom, from Oregon (my preference).

Astoria Vecchio
1 serving


2 1/2 ounces genever or Old Tom gin
1 ounce white vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Twist of orange peel, for garnish


Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the gin, vermouth and bitters. Stir for the appropriate craft cocktail time and in the appropriate craft cocktail manner, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the twist of orange peel. Repeat as necessary.

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Rivera Preludio N. 1 (2011) Puglia

Date: Wed, Nov 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

A stunner from Azienda Vinicola Rivera, one of Puglia's top estates. Family owned since the early 1900's, the 95 hectare estate pumps out over one million bottles of southern Italian wines a year. The estate is located in the Castel del Monte D.O.Cwhich covers all the areas of the Alta Murgia that slope down towards the Adriatic, including two that share the same Mediterranean climate but are quite different in soil types and landscape. The D.O.C. is dominated by the Castel del Monte, an octagonal shaped castle built in 1240 byemperor FrederikII of Swabia(and where canned peas were thought to have originated). In addition to growing traditional Puglian varietals, in the 1980's the founders grandson, Carlo de Corato, introduced Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay into the estates vineyards. De Corato believed that Chardonnay planted ina Mediterranean climate demonstrates warm, nuanced characteristics that enrich those traditional to the Frenchvariety. The Chardonnay grapes for Preludio N. 1are picked between the first and second week of August. The wine matures on the fine lees for 3-4 months to develop complexity and aromatic richness.The wineis released in the spring following harvest. Deep straw yellow; rich, complex nose, with crisp, fruity aromas of pear and peach blossom; clean and refreshing on the palate, with arich finish.

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Pojere e Sandri Vigna Palai (2010) Trentino

Date: Mon, Sep 17, 2012 Wine Tasting

A delicious Italian white from Pojere e Sandri, a small winery/distillery located in the alpine village of Faedo that was founded in 1975 by Fiorentino Sandri and his winemaker friend Mario Pojer. The wine is 100% Müller Thurga, a variety found throughout Italy that is thought to be a sub-variety of the Riesling grape. In order to preserve the delicate aromatic characteristic of the grape, they are worked in iperriduction (no oxygen); a proprietary technique using methodologies developed by Pojer & Sandri. Pale straw/yellow with greenish tint. Intensely aromatic nose with hints of peach and citrus. All of the labels on their wines feature the work of German-born, Renaissance-era painter and engraver Albrecht Dürer.

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Proprieta Sperino Rosa del Rosa (2011) Piemonte

Date: Mon, Aug 20, 2012 Wine Tasting

A summer fling from Proprieta Sperino, a winery located northeast of Turin in Lessona. The estate was inherited by the De Marchi family in the middle of the 19th century that produced wine until 1952. In the late 1990's Paolo De Marchi and his son Luca, began reclaiming the 25 acres of hillside vineyards by reclaiming the old Nebbiolo, and the ingigenous Vespolina and Croatina. The 2011 Rosa del Rosa is made entirely in stainless from 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina. A terrific rose wine with brightred berry fruiton the nose and palate. Delicious. Old-school looking label.

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Cecilia Beretta Brognoligo (2010) Veneto

Date: Tue, Jul 24, 2012 Wine Tasting

A delicious summer white from Cecilia Beretta, a family owned post-war winery thatbegan to step up its wine making in the early 1980's.The name originates from the splendid Beretta Villa, built in the seventh centuryby the count Giuseppe Beretta, former mayor of the city of Verona, agronomist and rural poet(?). The Pasqua family produce about 200,000 bottle of wine a year on 220 acres of vineyards (134 acres are owned bythe Pasqua family, and86 acres that belong to growers under cooperative contracts) that are located in the Valpolicella areasurrounding Soave. The 2010 Soave Classico is 85%Garganega and 15% Chardonnay. Fermented and aged instainless.Sparkling, straw yellow in color with just atinge of green.Floral noseofapple andapricot.

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Cascina degli Ulivi Semplicemente Bianco (2010) Tuscany

Date: Fri, Jul 13, 2012 Wine Tasting

A semplicemente Italian white wine from Cascina degli Ulivi, a twenty hectare family owned biodynamicwinery. The estate has been in the Bellotti family since the 1930's and is now run by Stefano Bellotti and his wife Zita. The Semplicemente wines are the newest of Cascina degli Ulivi's wines. In a 2011 interview, Stefano stated that his Semplicemente red and whites, "Are just wine,you don't need to worry about the region, the varietal, the nose, or whatever." Stefano said that when you do this, "You are intellectualizing wine, and wine doesn't give a shit about being intellectual; you bringwine to the table and you don't think about it, you just drink it - that's it." 100% Cortese.Half fermented in eleven ton oak vats and half fermented in stainless. Aged 3-6 months in oak vats. Clear bottle.

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In the Pink - The Jasmine Cocktail

Date: Tue, Jun 26, 2012 Wine Tasting

A terrific summer cocktail created in the 1990's by master bartender Paul Harrington for Matt Jasmine, a regular customer of Emeryville, California'sTownhouse Bar and Grill.The drink was inspired by the classic Prohibition cocktail, the Pegu, the signature drink of Burma's Pegu Club. Like the Pegu, Harrington used gin as the base spirit, but substituted lemon for the limeand Campari for the bitters. Manly pink in color.The lemon and Cointreau counter the bitterness of the Campari and balance the drink nicely. The recipe for a Jasmine is as follows: combine 1.5 oz. gin (I prefer Plymouth), .25 oz. Cointreau, .25 oz. Campari, and .75 oz. lemon juice.Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy with abandon.

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Giacomo Mori Chianti (2009) Tuscany

Date: Mon, Jun 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

A absolutely delicious Chianti from Giacomo Mori, a small (10 hectares producing 40,000 bottles annually) family-owned owned estate that wasestablished in 1790. The "Azienda Agricola Mori"wasone of the first estates that started marketing wine in Europe and in the United States.After the second World War, Mori's wines were sold in bulk until 1998 when Giacomo Morirestructured the cellars and replanted the vineyards to produce the fine wines that are offered today. Integrated/sustainable viticulture. Fermented in stainless, the wineis matured for 10-12 months in large Slavonian and Allier casks,tonneaux and third use barriques. The wine is then blended and finished en botti for another 3-6 months. 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo. Beautiful purple color. Black cherry nose. Medium body; smooth, long, elegant finish. Typographically stunning label. Even the foil on the bottle looks great.

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La Scolca Gavi "White Label" (Piedmont) 2008

Date: Tue, May 29, 2012 Wine Tasting

A refreshing Italian white from La Scolca, a 50 hectare, family-run Piemontese winery that was founded in 1919.Today, the Estate is run by Giorgio Soldati, the founder’s great-grandson, and his daughter, Chiara.Although the Cortese grape (what Gavi is made from; the name is derived from Gavi, the town at the center of the winesproduction zone) had been planted in the region since the late 19th Century, the grape produced low-alcohol, thin wines that quickly oxidized.It was the Soldati family, who after the Second World War saved the Cortese grapefrom oblivion by focusing entirely on the production of quality Cortese. They pioneered modern, controlled vinification in stainless-steel to preserve the subtle fruit of the Cortese grape, allowing for the creation of wines that retained crisp acidity,aroma, andstructure. All of La Scolca’s white wines follow the same vinification process: hand-harvested fruit is brought to the winery where it is sprayed with dry-ice,cryo-macerated andcold fermentedusing only natural yeasts.The La Scolca Gavi di Gavi White Label ismade from 20 to 30 year-old vines sourced within the Rovereto commune in the heart of Gavi.Light straw in color with a typical "Gavi" nose that is fine and pleasantly fresh. Delicate and dry mouthfeel withcrisp and refreshing acidity.

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The Last Word

Date: Mon, May 21, 2012 Wine Tasting

A superb gin-based cocktail created by vaudevillian Frank Fogarty in the early 1920's, where it was first served at the Detroit Athletic Club. A recipe for the drink was first published in 1951 in Ted Saucier's (my middle name,btw) classic cocktail book "Bottoms Up!".The cocktail faded into obscurity until it wasrediscovered in 2004 by Seattle's Zig Zag Cafe bartender Murray Stenson, when he came across Saucier's book. As evidence to its renewed popularity, a recipe for the drink reappeared in the 2009 edition of the "Mr. BostonOfficial Bartender's Guide".An equally superb variation to the drink is "The Final Ward", created by the New York bartender Phil Ward, who replaced the gin with rye whiskeyand the lime juice by lemon juice. The recipe is as follows: combine equal parts of gin (I prefer Plymouth),green Chartreuse,maraschino liqueur (I prefer Luxardo), andfresh lime juice. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist. Enjoy responsibly.

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Jasci L'Atteso Pecorino (2007) Abruzzo

Date: Thu, May 3, 2012 Wine Tasting

An awful Italian white from Jasci, a 90 acre winery founded in 1970 by Donatella Jasci. In 1975, Donatella began experimenting with organic and biodynamic farming when his mother became allergic to pesticides. Since 1980, Jasci wines have been certified organic by the Soil and Health Association, which guarantees the organic production of their grapes, as well as their winemaking processes. Jasci is also one of only a few wineries to hold organic certification in every country in the world that offers such certification. 100% Pecorino, a grape native to the area that was recently brought back from the brink of extinction. The origin of the name is that the grape variety was once a favorite snack of the sheep that were often driven through vineyard lands on their way to lower pastures. In Italian “Pecora” means sheep. The wine is the color of your urine if you were dehydrated andhad tuna salad for lunch. Old and musty; none of the lemon/peach/floral you would expect. Hoch bottle.

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Cosimo Maria Masini Nicole (2007) Tuscany

Date: Mon, Apr 30, 2012 Wine Tasting

A fantastic Italian red from Cosimo Maria Masini, a biodynamic winery located near Pisa in Tuscany. The estate, where the farming of grapes and olives dates back to the 1600's, was purchased by Cosimo Masini (an engineer by trade) in 1999. On his twenty-five acres of vineyards, Masini grows the traditional grapes of Tuscany along with Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Masini also produces high-quality artisanal olive oil from eleven acres of Frantoio, Leccino, and Moraiolo e Mignola Cerretanna (a rarely grown cultivar) trees. The 2007 Nicole (Masini names all of his wines after members of his family) is 100% Sangiovese. Pressed by the pedis, the wine is fermented in concrete vats using only airborne yeasts. Ruby-red. Beautiful fruit nose. Food friendly acidity. Un-oaked.

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