Fullerton Wines, from Scandinavia to Portlandia

Admittedly, when I first received the invitation, I was hesitant. I had never heard of the winery before and the idea of schlepping out to Brooklyn on a cold winter’s night was not very appealing…until I Googled the restaurant. With its two Michelin stars and stellar reviews, Aska was very intriguing and seemed well worth the trip to the outer borough.

As we would discover, this Scandinavian restaurant is run by Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius, who truly redefined our notions of a Swedish chef (especially if the Muppet Show is firmly ensconced in one’s brains) and instilled a wonderful appreciation for this cuisine in us.

Getting off the M train at Marcy Street, we walked toward Manhattan, in the shadows of the Williamsburg bridge. After several blocks, we wondered if we were indeed walking all the way back to Manhattan, but finally we arrived at our destination and were ushered to a private room, which was immaculately set for our group.

Once we were all seated, our winery hosts immediately poured us a glass of their rosé and then provided us with an introduction to themselves: The Fullerton’s. It turned out that there was a method to the madness; the Fullerton’s have a direct connection to Scandinavia, which was why they had chosen this vaunted restaurant for the event, coincident with the winery’s debut in the New York and New Jersey markets.

Patriarch of the family, Eric Fullerton was raised in a Danish family and married a Swedish woman. The couple lived in Scandinavia with son, Alex, born in Denmark. A few years later, the Fullerton’s returned to the U.S. and settled in Oregon. Eric held C-level positions within the communications and security industries, but always had a passion for quality wine.

As a young child, Alex watched his parents enjoying wine at home and carried these observations to school – swirling and spitting out his milk, much to the chagrin of his kindergarten teacher – eventually developing his own vinous interest, which was cemented on a father-son trip to Champagne and Burgundy when Alex graduated high school.

In 2010, Alex was graduating from college with a degree in economics, but with no specific plan for a career or his future. He and dad visited Penner-Ash Wine Cellars together and discussed the idea of Alex entering the wine industry. Alex was keen on the idea and before the day was out, he had secured a harvest intern position at Penner-Ash. Dad sweetened the deal, offering to back Alex’s personal wine venture, if he pursued a degree in viticulture and enology, to which he readily agreed.

Alex followed his time at Penner-Ash with a harvest in New Zealand, before returning to the Willamette Valley and Penner-Ash and, later, a position at Bergstrom Wines. During this time, the two Fullerton men began making wine in the garage and scouting for vineyard blocks throughout the Valley. They also planted 400 vines in their backyard.

In 2012, Fullerton Wines was launched as a commercial venture with two separate lines: Three Otters and Fullerton. The Three Otters brand owes its origins to the three otters depicted in the Fullerton family coat of arms and a portion of the proceeds from each bottle helps to support the return of sea otters to the Oregon coast. The Fullerton brand includes its Five FACES line, named for all members of the Fullerton family: Filip, Alex, Caroline, Eric and Suzanne, as well as several single vineyard Pinot Noirs. To date, the winery produces 4,500 cases annually, but the goal is to reach 20,000 cases in the future.

Alex currently sources Pinot Noir fruit from several vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Both the Three Otters and Five FACES Pinots are the products of blending grapes from various vineyards (and appellations) to craft a consistent wine that marries the favorable characteristics from throughout the region. However, he has also identified a number of distinct vineyards that appeal to him as single vineyard wines. These wines are more expressive of an individual terroir and provide nice diversity within the Fullerton portfolio. As the family seeks to expand its production, they will need to identify other vineyards. Looking ahead, Alex noted that he hopes to focus on Eola-Amity Hills in sourcing additional fruit as he is particularly enamored with this micro-climate and the quality of grapes it produces.

As the meal progressed, we got to know Eric and Alex better, both their histories and their philosophies. There was a genuine warmth to this father and son’s relationship as they bantered back and forth, making jokes and good-naturedly teasing one another. In the end, it was clear that Eric has made a huge investment in his son, not just for their mutual love of wine, but because he is extremely proud of him.

While the wine was understandably the focal point of the evening, the 10-course meal was not to be overlooked. Each course was a stunning presentation of food, plate and flatware. Despite the lengthy evening, the food was engaging and not too heavy; only one course included meat and many were vegetarian. Among the more unique offerings were a crunchy snack of bladderwrack seaweed with a blue mussel emulsion; an earthy bowl of lichen served with chanterelles and a mushroom broth; and an intense pig’s blood pancake with rose petals and rosehip jam.

With the wonderful selection of Willamette Valley wines and the expertise of Aska’s kitchen, it was the perfect way to spend a New York night and definitely merited the journey to Brooklyn. It was certainly much easier to get to than Noma!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NB: Food images courtesy of Jared Skolnick.

TASTING NOTES

Three Otters Rosé 2015, Willamette Valley, OR, $18.00
First conceived in 2012, the Three Otters rosé began as a friendly competition between dad and son over which method to use to produce the wine. Afterward, they decided that a blend of the two methods was best and they have continued to follow this format ever since. The wine is refreshing and dry with bright strawberry aromas and flavors along with a hint of fresh herbs, culminating in long length.

Three Otters Chardonnay 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $20.00
An all stainless-steel Chard, this wine lets the fruit shine through unimpeded by oak. The wine is high in acidity, with citrus and yellow apple notes, as well as a nice richness on the palate due to extended lees contact.

Fullerton Five FACES Chardonnay 2015, Willamette Valley, OR, $33.00
This barrel-fermented wine has only a small (9%) percentage of oak and thus the oak is very integrated, resulting in an elegant and beautiful Chardonnay with good acidity and long length.

Three Otters Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $20.00
A really nice entry-level Pinot Noir, this has no new oak, with the wine spending time in tanks and neutral barrels. Sourced and blended from eight different area vineyards, this wine offers up cherry and berry aromas and flavors with a slightly earthy undercurrent. Overall, it is light-bodied, fresh and approachable.

Fullerton Five FACES Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $33.00
This is the winery’s flagship wine with fruit sourced from several key vineyards. A beautiful wine with an intense and concentrated fruit nose of dark cherry, which persists on the palate and is joined by a hint of herbaceousness. It is rich, yet elegant with long length. Among the diners at our table, this seemed to be a fan favorite given the complexity of the wine and its reasonable price point.

Fullerton Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $45.00
The organically certified Croft Vineyard generates less of a diurnal shift yielding ripe grapes, with slightly less acidity than cooler sites. The result is a plushy, sensual Pinot with good black cherry and spice notes as well as some wet leaves in the long finish.

Fullerton Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, OR, $45.00
While sourced from the same grapes as the 2014 wine, 2013 was a more challenging vintage, marked with rains during harvest. Consequently, this wine has higher acidity than usual and more herbal character than the 2014.

Fullerton Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $60.00
The Momtazi Vineyard is situated within the McMinnville AVA. With its bright acidity, ripe red cherry fruit, lush herbs and spice, and lovely long length, this was my favorite single vineyard wine of the evening.

Fullerton Fir Crest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Yamhill-Carlton, OR, $75.00
Hailing from the old vines in the Fir Crest Vineyard, this wine possesses an extremely intense, heavy and concentrated nose and palate. It displayed some volatile acidity, along with dark red fruit and firm tannins; a steak-eater’s Pinot Noir. This wine provoked an interesting discussion among Alex and Eric since it is a style that Alex doesn’t enjoy, but that Eric would like to replicate for market purposes.

Looking at the world through rosé-colored glasses

2015-mathilde-rose-backMy family and I visited Provence back in 2001. We didn’t know a lot about wine at the time; we just knew that we liked it.

On our first night in Provence, we stumbled across a lovely little restaurant with outdoor dining and knew that we had to join in the fun. We requested a table, sat down and gave the server our simple request: we want what the table next to us is having! A short while later our table was filled with incredible-looking, large grilled shrimp and glasses of rosé wine.

I don’t remember the name of that restaurant or even which town it was in, nor do I have any idea who produced that rosé, but that evening remains perfectly etched in our minds – a rosé moment! It is precisely for such moments that Mathilde Chapoutier crafted her wine (although admittedly, she hopes you will remember that she made it).

Accordingly, I don’t think she took much offense, if any, when I spent more timing catching up with my colleague as we gorged on towers of seafood and several bottles of her wine on a summer Friday, rather than peppering her with questions about her background and winemaking philosophy. We were creating yet another rosé memory.

When your last name is so synonymous with wine, it is challenging to stay away from the wine industry. Mathilde Chapoutier tried it for a while, contemplating a career as a shooter (after many years as a successful competitor), but the 24-year old eventually gave in and joined the family business.

Today, as a member of the 8th generation of her family to make wine, she serves as Chief of Strategy and Business Development, a position, which has been quite rewarding. However, she was drawn to the idea of creating something uniquely hers – she wanted to make her own wine.

Her approach has been to create a wine that would appeal to her friends and other similar-minded folks who are afraid of wine or find it elitist. Overall, she wanted, “something simple, elegant and easy to drink.” She has succeeded in spades.

Although her family had previously produced what she refers to as food rosés – such as the hearty, deep pink Tavels – her father, Michel Chapoutier, was decidedly not a fan of Provençal rosé. In his opinion, there really weren’t many good ones in the market.

But, Mathilde was determined to prove him wrong and fought for this project despite his objections, eventually finding the Grand Ferrage estate, situated in the foothills of the Saint-Victoire Mountain. For her first vintage (2014), she purchased the juice, ultimately fermenting and blending the wine to her exacting standards.

Dad saw how receptive everyone was to the wine and relaxed his view. For her next vintage, she purchased the entire domaine, giving her full autonomy over the grapes and harvest as well as production. The wine is now available in the U.S. and ready for you to create your own rosé moments.

Mathilde Chapoutier Grand Ferrage Rosé 2015, Côtes de Provence, France, $24.99 (SRP)

untitledVery light in color, thanks to only a few hours of skin contact, this wine offers up floral and citrus aromas, with a dry and delicate palate with peach and floral notes, culminating in long length.

Rose dreaming on a winter’s day

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Certainly, a bottle of bubbly makes any occasion special – an instant upgrade from blah to ta-dah! It can brighten days and elevate moods as evidenced on a recent vacation.

Specifically, on said vacation, we were asked to wait in the restaurant’s lounge while they found us a table for dinner. About 15 minutes later, the manager brought over two complimentary glasses of Cava for us, immediately ensuring happy guests, made even happier when we were ushered to the best table in the house only a short while later.

And, every evening at 6:00 PM, the St. Regis Bahia Beach continues the tradition of sabering a bottle of sparkling wine to mark the transition from day to night, as the sun sinks below the horizon and the coqui frogs begin their song.

Moreover, if looking at the world through rose-colored glasses brings a change in attitude, just imagine what a glass of pink-hued, sparkling wine can do for you in the middle of a dreary winter!

Thinking pink, a recent tasting brought together a beautiful range of salmons, pinks and pale reds, all bursting with bubbles and imbuing the day with beauty and brightness.

Thankfully, while a winter vacation might be just a dream, enjoying a glass of sparkling rosé wine just requires an easy trip to your local retailer. Here are a few options to get you in the mood.

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Mionetto Prestige Gran Rosé (SRP: $14.00)
While not technically a Prosecco, since it is both a rosé and a blend of Raboso and Lagrein, this wine hails from the same area where Prosecco is produced. Medium salmon in color, this fresh and fruity wine offered up berry, floral and cotton candy aromas, with a slightly off-dry palate (fittingly, since it is labeled Extra Dry).

Mionetto Luxury Cuvée Sergio Rosé (SRP: $19.00)
Much darker hued than its fellow rosé from Mionetto, this deep pink wine displayed aromas of roses, cherries and strawberries on the nose, all of which persisted on the off-dry palate.

Ruffino Sparkling Rosé (SRP: $15.00)
Ruffino is a well known Tuscan producer, but they have begun to branch out to other Italian regions and recently released this sparkling wine made from the Glera grape of Prosecco fame. It has a pronounced nose of floral and red fruit (raspberry and strawberry) notes, joined by a hint of cotton candy on the slightly off-dry palate.

Cavas Hill 1877 Rosado Cava (SRP: $13.00)
A blend of Garnacha and Monastrell, this Traditional Method sparkler hails from Spain and was deep salmon in color.  Notes of ripe, dark berries and a hint of earthiness dominate both the nose and palate.

Alfred Gratien Brut Classique Rosé Champagne (SRP: $65.00)
Light and ethereal, this pale hued rosé Champagne presented classic yeasty, bready/brioche notes with a touch of strawberry and minerality on the brightly acidic palate, culminating in long length.

Versatile Vermentino: Rolle with it!

IMG_20151207_133046568[2]Stuck in a rut? Instead of reaching for the same-old grape varieties, why not try a versatile Vermentino? This Mediterranean grape offers up unoaked, fresh fruit flavors with bright acidity. Masquerading under a myriad of synonyms, the grape is also known as Rolle (France’s Provence and Corsica), Favorita (Piedmont) and Pigato (Liguria).

Vermentino is also widely planted in Tuscany and is the main white variety found in Montecucco and the Maremma. These dry, white wines typically display peach and pear fruit aromas with an occasional floral or spice note.

However, Vermentino probably shines brightest on the island of Sardinia where it has earned the highest designation for quality wine: Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. It was here that the vines were initially introduced to the island from Corsica in the early 1800s. Situated on the northeast of the island, Gallura’s name translates as an area located on high ground due to its elevation. The spot is also prized for its granite soils, which provide a mineral character to the wines, while the proximity to the sea adds a note of salinity.

One of the leading wineries in the area is Vigne Surrau, which produces 300,000 bottles annually. Although they also produce wines from Cannonau and Carignano, 60% of the winery’s production is dedicated to white wines, especially from Vermentino. In this regard, they make a range of styles from the variety, including dry, sweet and sparkling. Like the people on the island (Sardinia is known for being among the top five places in the world where people live the longest), these Vermentinos have great longevity. They can easily age for 5 to 7 years due the granitic soils, and, while they lose some of their freshness similar to aged Riesling, they retain their beautiful structural elements and evolve in the bottle.

VDSC_0052al delle Rose Litorale Vermentino 2014, Maremma Toscana DOC, Italy
With 10% Sauvignon Blanc in the blend, this wine displays a nice richness on the palate with pear and lanolin, along with fresh acidity.

La Mora Vermentino 2014, Maremma Toscana DOC, Italy Very floral nose joined by flavors of peach and pear on the round palate.

Moris Farms Vermentino 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy
Tropical in style with intense peach fruit, floral and spice notes on the nose and palate.

Massi di Mandorlaia Vermentino 2014, IGT Costa Toscana, Italy Aromas of peach, pear and mineral persist on the fresh palate with good acidity and long length.

2015-09-24 13.06.33Marchesi de Frescobaldi Massovivo Ammiraglia Vermentino 2014 IGP Toscana, Italy
Having spent time on the lees, this elegant wine has a lovely waxy texture along with pear and peach flavors, culminating in long length.

Ribusieri Vermentino Chiaranotte 2014, Montecucco DOC, Italy
This wine shows ripe peach fruit with lanolin and spice, along with medium acidity.

ColleMassari Melacce 2014, Montecucco Vermentino DOC, Italy
A very fresh wine with high acidity and a pleasing palate of mineral, pear and peach notes.

ColleMassari Irisse 2013, Montecucco DOC, Italy
An 85% Vermentino – 15% Grechetto blend that spends ten months aged in large oak vessels, this wine displays aromas and flavors of smoke, citrus and mineral with an angular structure and a hint of spice in the finish.

2015-09-26 10.40.21Prato al Pozzo Vermentino 2014, Maremma Toscana DOC, Italy Bright and fresh with high acidity and lots of citrus and pear along with saline and mineral characteristics.

Tenuta I’Impostino Ballo Angelico IGP Toscano Vermentino, Italy There is almost no fruit on this wine; instead, it offers up overt mineral, chalk and salty notes on the rich palate.

Vigne Surrau Branu Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2014, Sardegna, Italy, $18.00 Pronounced floral aromas give way to ripe peach and pear on the palate with bright acidity, richness and long length.

Vigne Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore 2014, Sardegna, Italy, $25.00
Named for the Italian word for “enjoy,” this higher-end version of Vermentino offers a more restrained nose, but with more richness and texture on the medium-full palate thanks to 24 hours of skin contact and five months on the lees, along with distinct salinity and minerality.

Vigne Surrau Sole di Surrau IGT Isola dei Nuraghi Passito di Vermentino 2014, Sardegna, Italy, $N/A
This unctuous dessert wine offers up both fresh and dried apricot notes accompanied by honey and orange peel; it is beautifully balanced with bright acidity.

Island Wines: Santorini Edition

There is something special about visiting an island. The discrete borders, the intimate setting and the separation from the mainland all conspire to conjure images of serene beauty. It’s why “Island Getaway” makes a much better headline than “Landlocked Getwaway”!

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting several different islands, either in body (Long Island) or in spirit (Sicilia and Santorini), succumbing to their charms through the lovely wines that capture their essence.

Admittedly, Greece has been the talk of the town lately – what with a collapsing economy and all that. But, the good news coming out of Greece is the quality and diversity its wines. I presented a session on Greek wines for IWAGY back in the spring, which was a great opportunity to refresh my memory on Greece’s regions and indigenous varieties. Then, in June, I was (virtually) off to the island of Santorini with a tasting featuring the wines of this volcanic island.

The volcanic island of Santorini is exactly what one would expect from a Greek island. Vivid photographs of blindingly white stone buildings juxtaposed against the brilliance of the azure sea, central casting couldn’t have done a better job in creating the perfect setting.

Viticulture on the island dates to 3500 BCE, but the island owes its true viticultural heritage to the volcanic eruptions that took place in 1600 BCE. The resulting caldera, volcanic soils coupled with the climatic winds and limited rainfall, require vines to be grown in a unique, basket-shaped trellis (known as kouloura) nestled close to the ground for protection.

Here, producers rely on a mixture of indigenous varieties, most notably the white grape Assyrtiko, which creates crisp, dry refreshing whites that are mineral driven. Other local grapes include Athiri, Aidani and the reds: Mavrotragano and Mandelaria.

There are three appellations assigned to the small island: Santorini (dry whites, which must include a minimum of 75% Assyrtiko, rounded out with Athiri and Aidani), Vinsanto (sweet wines producead from at least 51% Assyrtiko and made from late harvested grapes, which are dried in the sun for about 2 weeks prior to fermentetaion) and Nykteri (originally named for the now-defunct restriction that the grapes be harvested at night (nikta), these dry whites are also produced with a minimum of 75% Assyrtiko, but with the additional requirement that the wines be aged for at least 3 months in oak barrels). Additionally, the luscious dessert wine, vinsanto, is also produced on the island.

ESTATE ARGYROS
This winery, originally established in 1903 by George Argyros, is now under the leadership of the fourth generation in the guise of Matthew Argyros. With 30 hectares of vineyards, the company’s holdings are among the largest on the island.

Argyros Aidani 2014, PGI Cyclades
This wine has bright fruit aromas with flavors of floral and peach.

Argyros Assyrtiko 2014, PDO Santorini
This wine displays distinct minerality and salinity on both the nose and palate, with good acidity and texture.

Estate Argyros 2014, PDO Santorini
This wine was fuller-bodied and more structured due to the barrel influence than the Assyrtiko.

Estate Argyros Vinsanto 1998, PDO Santorini
Aromas of caramel, honey, with a mineral characteristic. On the palate, it is rich, but not heavy or cloying; bright and fresh with a long finish.

Estate Argyros Vinsanto 1990, PDO Santorini
Darker in color than 1998, this wine offered up an intense nose of dried fruits, with a sweet, viscous palate with caramel, honey and fig, balanced by sufficient acidity.


GAIA

Gaia was established by Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos in 1994 and is considered to be a boutique winery. As an internationally trained winemaker, Yiannis is at the forefront of Santorini’s rebirth.

Gaia Thalassitis 2014, PDO Santorini
This unoaked version is pithy and fresh, with chalk and mineral notes throughout.

Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2014, PDO Santorini
A yeasty character pervades the nose and palate most likely a result of the use of natural yeast.

Gaia Thalassitis Oak Fermented 2013, PDO Santorini
This oak-treated wine displays both a fuller body and notes of oak due to the winemaking.


GAVALAS

A true family business, the Gavalas Winery is presently headed by George Gavalas, who fuses his family’s traditions with a modern sensibility in the creation of his wines. In this regard, he has been instrumental in reviving some of the more obscure varieties on the island.

Gavalas Katsano 2014, PGI Cyclades
Floral and almond aromas on the nose give way to floral and pear flavors on the soft palate.

Gavalas Santorini 2014, PDO Santorini
Fresh with citrus and chalk, this is a lovely example of Assyrtiko.

Gavalas Santorini Natural Ferment 2014, PDO Santorini
Yeasty notes are joined by citrus and minerality. Very special.

Gavalas Vinsanto 2006, PDO Santorini
Intense nose with caramel and honey.

 

HATZIDAKIS
Forced to abandon the family vineyards in the wake of the 1956 earthquake, Haridimos and Konstatina Hadzidakis returned to the island forty years later to rebuild, replant and restore their family’s winemaking legacy.

Hatzidakis Aidani 2014, PGI Cyclades
With floral and peach aromas and flavors, this wine is lively on the palate with good acidity.

Hatzidakis Nykteri 2013, PDO Santorini
Fresh, with just a hint of sweetness on the attack. This wine is big and bold with good acidity.

Hatzidakis Mavrotragano 2013, PGI Cyclades
This wine has a deceptively soft start, giving way to its tannic grip and bright plum fruit.

Hatzidakis Vinsanto 2003, PDO Santorini
This wine is extremely fresh despite its sweetness level. It offers notes of honey, fig and quince.


KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS
The Koutsoyannopoulos family has been making wine since Grigoris and Dimitris Koutsoyannopoulos established Volcan Wines in 1880. Today, the fourth generation continues this tradition, under the family name, while still retaining the old logo.

Koutsoyannopoulos Santorini 2013, PDO Santorini
A bit weightier on the palate compared to some of the other examples, this wine still provides lively acidity and lots of minerality.

Koutsoyannopoulos Santorini 2012, PDO Santorini
With a decidedly mineral nose, the palate is more redolent of fresh fruit, namely pear and citrus. One of my favorites of the event.

Koutsoyannopoulos Nykteri 2012, PDO Santorini
Very floral on the nose, this wine offers up citrus, pith and mineral flavors on its complex palate.

 

SANTO WINES
Established in 1947, the SantoWines cooperative presently has 2500 members that support its activities in growing grapes and making wine.

Santo Wines Sparkling 2014
Quite lovely and fresh with a creamy mousse and floral notes.

Santo Wines Nykteri 2014, PDO Santorini
Floral and fruit aromas greet the nose and persist on the palate through the long length.

 

Then, in late June, just as the crisis was really heating up, an unusual event heralded the launch of Agrino.  Promoting the Mediterranean diet, these packaged rice dishes offer flavor and convenience and will, of course, pair well with Greek and other wines. Coming soon to a grocery shelf near you!

Island Wines: Long Island Edition

2015-06-30 16.43.09There is something special about visiting an island. The discrete borders, the intimate setting and the separation from the mainland all conspire to conjure images of a serene paradise. It’s why “Island Getaway” makes a much better headline than “Landlocked Getwaway”!

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting several different islands, either in body (Long Island) or in spirit (Sicilia and Santorini), open to their charms through the lovely wines that are produced on each.

Close to home (aka New York City), Long Island provides a welcome refuge for city dwellers, with its beaches, farms and vineyards. We returned to the region after a two-year, accidental hiatus, stopping at some of our favorites for a brief refresher and to stock up our cellar, which we were about to deplete as a consequence of hosting our Meet, Meat & Merlot dinner, featuring a selection of aged Long Island Merlots.

The four-course dinner, held at our apartment, was an excellent opportunity to see how Long Island Merlot can develop with time. All of the wines, from the youngest at 12 years old (2003) to the oldest at 23 (1992), proved the point in spades. Between the chaos of cooking an elaborate menu and hosting 11 guests, I admittedly did not take notes on the wines, but the menu and wine selection are listed below.

Tasting notes for the various wines we tasted during our two-day visit to both the North Fork and The Hamptons AVAs are also included below.

Meet, Meat & Merlot Dinner Menu & Wines
Amuse Bouche: Frico Cheese Crisps with Hungarian Paprika

Wild Caught Salmon Sliders with Sage on Crispy Potato “Buns”
Shinn Estate Vineyards Estate Merlot 2003, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Shinn Estate Vineyards Six Barrels Reserve Merlot 2002, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Coq au Vin 8 Hands Farm Organic Chicken Breast with Cipollini Onions & Mushrooms Lenz Estate Selection Merlot 2001, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Lenz Estate Selection Merlot 2000, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Beef Wellington Organic Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Duxelles and Foie Gras in Puff Pastry served with North Fork Squash and Sugar Snap Peas
Macari Vineyards, Bergen Road 1997, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Rivendell, Merlot 1990, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Rivendell, Merlot 1992, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Dessert
Briermere Farms Raspberry & Peach Pie and
Briermere Farms Gooseberries and Wickham’s Farm Cherries

MACARI VINEYARDS
Macari Sauvignon Blanc 2014, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $23.00
This wine is fresh and bright, with crisp citrus, a hint of green apple and long length.

Macari Dos Aguas Blanc 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $27.00
A blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The intense nose displays aromas of lush pear and tropical fruit, both of which persist on the palate.

Macari Sauvignon Blanc No. 1 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $27.00 Macari has been actively experimenting with the use of concrete eggs and 60% of this wine was fermented in one. Compared to the regular Sauvignon Blanc, it was much rounder with lots of orange peel aromas and flavors.

Macari Cabernet Franc Lightforce 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $N/A
This wine was also fermented and aged in a concrete vessel. It was fresher and lighter than regular Cabernet Franc, but still very Cab Franc in its characteristics, with beautiful earth and mushroom notes.

Macari Merlot Reserve 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $36.00
From the near perfect 2010 vintage, this wine is absolutely gorgeous with rich notes of coffee and black cherry, culminating in long length.

2015-07-01 11.13.40LENZ ESTATE
Lenz Estate Blanc de Noir Rosé 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $22.00
A light and pleasing rosé with fresh strawberry and slight herbal notes on the nose and palate.

Lenz Estate Old Vine Gewürztraminer 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $30.00
More floral than spice, this dry Gewurztraminer is quite elegant with nice acidity.

Lenz Estate Malbec 2011, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $35.00
With intense and concentrated aromas of smoke, mulberry and blue fruit, this wine is more restrained on the palate, with elegant flavors of spice and blue fruit.

Lenz Estate Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $NA
This wine was showing some development with complex aromas and aromas of red fruit, black fruit and some meatiness. On the dry palate, it displayed ripe and concentrated flavors of blackberry, coffee and slight cedar; lovely.

McCALL WINES
McCall Pinot Noir 2012, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $28.00
This wine offers fresh, bright fruit with notes of cherries, herbs and earth.

McCall Pinot Noir Hillside 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $39.00
This Pinot Noir is more complex and intense than the entry-level wine, with more meaty and spice notes.

McCall Merlot Reserve 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $30.00
This pretty and elegant wine displays rich black cherry aromas that pervade the palate as well.

McCall Ben’s Blend 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $54.00
Bringing together, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend provides velvety tannins and nice complexity with gorgeous black fruit aromas and flavors.
CHANNING DAUGHTERS
Channing Daughters Tocai Mudd Vineyard 2012 North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, 24.00
A combination of minerality and salinity greet the nose, while the palate is rewarded with apple and mineral notes and long length.

Channing Daughters Rosato di Refosco 2014, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $20.00 This rosé is distinctly herbal with sour cherry and a hint of salinity that lingers throughout the finish.

Channing Daughters Envelope 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $42.00
Produced from 62% Chardonnay, 28% Gewurztraminer and 10% Malvasia Bianca, which were co-fermented with ambient yeast on the skins, this wine offers up pronounced aromas of floral and spice. This wine is rich, with concentrated fruit flavors of floral and pear on the palate.

Channing Daughters Ribolla Gialla 2013, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $35.00
This wine displays rich aromas of honey and marzipan. Its palate is dry with flavors of honey and white flowers.

Channing Daughters Sculpture Garden 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $30.00
A blend of Merlot, Teroldego and Blaufrankisch, this wine spent 22 months in oak and 18 months in bottle before release. It has soft tannins, with notes of cherries, cocoa, and spice, which persist through the long finish.

NB: While I don’t have precise tasting notes, we absolutely adored Channing’s range of VerVino Vermouths.

WÖLFFER ESTATE
W
ölffer Estate Noblesse Oblige Extra Brut Sparkling Rosé 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $54.00
This elegant sparkling wine was very yeasty on the nose, with flavors of berries and cream on the palate.

Wölffer Estate Rosé 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $18.00
Considered among the official rosés of the Hamptons, this fresh, Provencal-style rose is the perfect wine for summer with its purity of melon and berry fruit and refreshing acidity.

Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $24.00
This white blend offered up ripe, lush fruit with flavors of floral, peach and pear.

Grapes of Roth Dry Riesling 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $26.00
Produced by Wölffer’s winemaker and partner Roman Roth, this is classic Riesling with citrus, slight pith, mineral, just a hint of off-dry sweetness on the attack.

Wölffer Estate Descencia Botrytis Chardonnay 2012, Long Island (NY), USA, $40.00
A late-harvest Chardonnay dessert wine with medium-sweetness, this wine is beautifully balanced by its bright acidity along with notes of honey, spice and Asian pear, culminating in long length.

Sour Wine? Vinegar Demystified

2013-07-02 18.12.18-1More proof that everything sounds better in French? Sour wine, anyone? I didn’t think so. But, vinegar – from the French words vin (wine) and aigre (sour) – is a much more palatable sounding product. In fact, some vinegars are quite coveted in the culinary world, commanding high prices at specialty shops (more on that later).

Like wine, vinegar has become very popular as of late, touted with a myriad of benefits and uses. Recent research findings show a positive correlation between vinegar consumption and an increase in calcium absorption and a reduction in fat build-up as well as having antiglycemic properties in diabetics. Outside the kitchen, vinegar is removing wine stains from clothing, cleaning windows without streaks and eliminating water marks on wood.

With an entwined etymology, vinegar and wine are similar yet so different. Both entail fermentations and find their way to the table. But, while one is great for drinking, the other is most often best left for salads and marinades. Moreover, whereas winemakers are careful to limit exposure to air (and oxygen, specifically), vinegar producers are more welcoming. In fact, they need to promote the acetobaceter group of bacteria to engage in a secondary fermentation to first convert the must to an aldehyde and then eventually to acetic acid.

Produced from a diverse set of ingredients, vinegars range from the basic white, distilled variety to apple cider and rice wine (commonly produced in Asia) among many others. And, true to its name, some vinegar is actually made from wine, or at least, from grapes. As long as you have natural sugars that can be converted to alcohol, you have the potential makings of vinegar.

But there’s vinegar and then there’s Vinegar. High end vinegar is much more complex and concentrated and can (almost) be drunk straight (I said almost).

In this regard, Balsamic Vinegar is another story entirely and can be a confusing one at that. Head to your big box market and you’ll find large volume bottles of Balsamic with small price tags (Costco’s Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar is $12.56 for 33.8 oz). Meanwhile, Sur la table has 3.5 oz of the “good stuff” priced at $179.95 and the same quantity of the “really good stuff” at Linens-n-Things will set you back $735.40. As I said, confusing.

With a history dating back to the Romans, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is held in high regard and is the standard bearer for quality balsamic vinegar. Obtained through the reduction of cooked or concentrated grape must – in particular, Trebbiano grapes grown within the town of Modena (situated in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region) – the must is placed into small barrels where it slowly ferments. Through the fermentation process, this traditional product is converted into acetic acid and also becomes more concentrated as it evaporates. Each year, the contents of the barrel are transferred into a smaller barrel of differing wood type, such as chestnut, juniper, cherry or oak, further adding to the complex character of the finished product.

As a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, the aging process requires a minimum of 12 years and all aspects of production must adhere to the rules and regulations set out by the consortium, similar to that of a PDO wine (i.e. Chianti Classico or Barolo). This product is legally called Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and has two Certified Qualities – 12 Years (which are designated with a burgundy-colored seal) and 25 Years (which bear a gold seal). Another PDO-level vinegar is the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, which is identically made, differing only in the specified production area (the province of Reggio Emilia, adjacent to Modena) and bottle type in which it must be packaged.

Given the time and expense to produce this coveted product, other less artisanal products have found their way to the marketplace, but without any rules or regulations governing what could or couldn’t be included on the label, it was caveat emptor.

Thankfully, in 2009, a Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) was granted for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, with production codified and limiting the use of “Modena” to these and the PDO products. While not as labor intensive to make, the PGI product is carefully controlled, with the production area specified within the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Its much shorter aging period ranges from a minimum of 60 days to three years. Aging claims are limited to the words “aged” for that handful of products aged more than 3 years.

Instead, the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI products adhere to the LEAF quality system, which was initially implemented by Acetum. This professional grading system of the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI is the only independently (3rd party) certified system and provides greater clarity for the consumer. With four quality designations – 1 Leaf, 2 Leaves, 3 Leaves and 4 Leaves – the LEAF system is based on based on sensory and laboratory analysis taking several characteristics/dimensions into account. After analysis is completed, the products are labeled accordingly.

Leaf System

 

 

 

In the interest of science, journalism and fun, the author conducted a formal tasting of the four LEAF categories of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI from Acetum. I think my tasting notes correspond well to the flavor profiles stated in the LEAF system, which means that it should serve you well in selecting your vinegar.

TASTING NOTES

ONE LEAF: Intense nose with woody note, acidic/sharp on the nose. Dry, high acid, sharp, savory quality. Long length.

TWO LEAVES: Intense nose with spice, wood, fig and exotic notes. Off-dry with sweeter, woody note, fig, roasted/candied fig, slightly smoother. Long length.

THREE LEAVES: Intense nose, but less sharp than the previous two. Cheesy/leesy, cocoa, roasted nuts, more viscous appearance. Not very sharp/smoother palate, with intense sweetness and fuller body. Roasted nuts, dried fig, honey. Very long length.

FOUR LEAVES: Most viscous of the four. Syrupy appearance. Intense, rich nose – smoked meat, roasted nuts, caramel, mushroom. Medium sweet, syrupy texture, very smooth. Dried fig, candied nuts, toffee, treacle, woody and spice. Very long length.

And, in terms of pricing, a quick search on Amazon.com revealed that 500ml of Two Leaves quality Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI cost $10.00 while 250ml of Four Leaves quality Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI was priced at $20.00.

For more general information on vinegar, check out the Vinegar Institute and for more details on the Acetum line of vinegars, see Modena Fine Foods’ website.

And there you have it, the quality pyramid of Balsamic Vinegar. Enjoy!

Vinegar Quality Pyramid