Saturday, September 22, 2012

You may need to add a +39 to find the blog for a bit

I'm in the Piemonte for a bit, walking the vine rows.

So I apologize if I don't get back to you right away.

But you may still see my fingerprints on things from time to time.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mark Vlossak is on I'll Drink to That!

Mark Vlossak of Oregon's St. Innocent Winery conducts a master class on Oregon Pinot today on I'll Drink to That! Mark has a couple decades of experience with the grape in the place to draw on, and he is patient and thorough in his explanations. This is a good chance to hear more about where Mark is coming from, and also where Pinot Noir from Oregon is coming from. What does the weather determine? What does the domestic market demand? And what do we see different producers doing in Oregon today? If you are curious to hear Mark's perspective on all this, then don't miss the in-depth discussion.

You can hear the Mark Vlossak interview on iTuneson Stitcher, or on the dedicated website.

Christy Frank is on I'll Drink to That!

Christy Frank, the personable owner of Frankly Wines, talks retail on a recent I'll Drink to That! In the sustained era of big wine business and volume discounts, Christy runs a neighborhood store based around a personal model. This is somebody who, as you can hear in the interview, has a commitment to helping her neighbors find the wines they are looking for and also a commitment to helping them find their own palate. 

A lot of times one hears about the adventurous sommelier working with the small list of interesting wines, but for whatever reason the small footprint retailer selling beloved wines out of a tiny storefront doesn't get the same attention or fanfare. The general thinking seems to be that retailers work on large volume discounts, play to what consumers already want, and don't make an effort to develop customer taste. But Frankly Wines isn't like that. This is a store with Chateau Musar on the shelf. This is a place in it with the hippest of sommeliers for a bit more of a favorite wine. And this is a shop where you can find Rauchbier distillate. It is pretty apparent to me that Christy is working just as hard as any sommelier would to introduce her customers to what she loves and to make small scale viable.

Christy's interview is available both on iTunes and on Stitcher.

And you can follow Christy on twitter like I do, @franklywines or see the latest recommendations on the store's entertaining blog.

Don't think that small footprint "personal retailing" exists anymore in the wine business? Go take a look at Christy's store and have your mind changed. And if you want to know the story behind the store, take a listen to the interview and hear what Christy has to say.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jon Bonne is on I'll Drink to That!

Jon Bonne, the erudite wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, brings a nuanced perspective of the California wine scene to listeners of I'll Drink to That! in an interview that is up today. Jon combines a real grasp of the historical trends that shaped the area with an on the ground view of the latest happenings. And Jon possesses a well informed palate that was honed by seeking out the variety of the world's wines. Jon not only keeps up with what is happening in California today, but also helps chart what will happen next through his writing.

But what if you haven't purchased a California wine in years? Then you should definitely be listening to this interview, because Jon cogently explains not only why you haven't been drinking the wines, but also who the producers are that just may change that.

Jon Bonne's interview is available on iTuneson Stitcher for the Droid users, and on the dedicated website.

You can also follow Jon on twitter @jbonne or track down his writing on

This is somebody that is informed, intelligent, and ready to level with you about what the reality is. Don't miss the opportunity to hear what he has to say.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

the Amari file: even more from along Barolo's Spice Route

Well, although it is formidable and the progenitor for much of what followed, Cappellano Barolo Chinato is not the only Barolo Chinato. And I learned little bits and scraps about a few others during my recent trip to Piemonte. Tidbits which I duly turn over to you.

At Schiavenza they have made a Barolo Chinato for the last 30 years now. The fruit for theirs comes from Serralunga, just as Cappellano's does, but the two offerings taste very different from each other. Shiavenza's is sweeter, with a 20% sugar level, which is higher than Cappellano's. And the spices are macerated in ethanol and water for 2 months, which is twice as long as Cappellano's maceration time. The final alcohol level is 17%. The current release is based upon Schiavenza's 2006 Barolo Serralunga, their normale Barolo.
Only 2,000 bottles of Schiavenza Barolo Chinato are produced each year, and all of it is sold locally, some of it at the Schiavenza restaurant. No Schiavenza Chinato has been exported, although I was told that the Japanese market has expressed an interest in doing so.
At the Schiavenza cantina they favor drinking the Chinato in purezza, without any club soda or such, and they recommend drinking it as a digestivo, which makes sense in terms of how sweet it is.

At Marcarini the alcohol level of the Barolo Chinato is 16%. The recipe includes cloves, cinnamon, rhubarb, china calissaya, and several mountain herbs from the area. The wine base is sometimes from La Morra's La Serra, and sometimes from Brunate. Or it can be a mixture of the two. The next bottling of the Marcarini Barolo Chinato will be based upon wine from the 2008 vintage.

Luca Roagna told me that his family's Barolo Chinato is based on a recipe of 33 herbs, and that it becomes "every year more wild." Some of the herbs used are grown in Roagna's own vineyards, while others are alpine. The wine base is sourced from La Pira in Barolo, as there is no DOC available for Barbaresco Chinato.


Friday, September 7, 2012

the Amari file: other notes from along Cappellano's Spice Route

The Cappellano Chinato label as it was from 1930 to 1974.
I got my copy of Wine & Spirits magazine's October issue, and there was my article on Cappellano Barolo Chinato framed up on the next to last page. It's nice to know that someone looking for researched and current information in English about one of Italy's most astounding beverages now has a published resource available to them. And there is a lot of information in the piece, as the editors at W&S were willing to devote considerable type space to a topic that maybe still occupies a rather small and specialty niche in the market.

A box intended for sample bottles at the old pharmacies. In the past there were two pharmacies owned by the Cappellano family.

But of course not everything I uncovered ended up in the piece and there is a bit more to tell you. I decided to share some of the details here on this blog that might sketch in a fuller picture for you.

The Pie Franco Barolo from Cappellano is never used in the Chinato, which is pure Rupestris. The fruit is sourced today from the Gabutti vineyard, but Augusto does not know from where the fruit was brought in the past. The Cappellano family purchased their portion of Gabutti in 1980.

Augusto considers his Chinato recipe to be "an encounter with the entire family." He dates the production back as far as perhaps 1863, although the oldest bottle he has seen himself is dated to 1890. In the 1960's it was determined by the Consorzio that Barolo Chinato would not carry a vintage label on the bottle, although before then it was common.

Inspecting the China Calissaja at the Cappellano cantina. Only one of the ingredients used in the recipe at Cappellano is local to the Langhe. The rest of the additions come from around the globe. Augusto told me that the strength of a given spice varies with the years and the source. And the ambient temperature matters a great deal. If the infusion is done in a hotter temperature, less spice is required.

Chocolate is offered to guests trying the Barolo Chinato in the Cappellano tasting room.

Not only does Augusto want to extend the time that his Barolo Chinato sees in wood to make special Riserva Chinati, he also wants to cellar bottles of the Chinato for longer, as he asserts that the taste improves with age. Augusto recommends a year of ageing in the bottle, saying that this is when the spices really start to come together.

Currently, the Barolo Chinato is aged in bottle at Cappellano for 6 months before release.

A great-great uncle of Augusto's produced at one time a Moscato based Bianco Chinato. And also a Fernet was once made at Cappellano.

This cocktail is one that Baldo would recommend to visitors.

The Cappellano Barolo Chinato label from 1974 to 1990. Augusto thinks that what really differentiates his Chinato from the Chinati offered by many of the other producers today is that he always uses real spices in his recipes, and not oil essences "that have been attacked by steam."

Augusto does not feel that Barolo Chinato has increased much in popularity over the last 10 years, but he does think that it is much more popular today than it was in 1970's, when there was virtually no interest at all from the market.
A bottle today.

Augusto credits his father Teobaldo for really keeping the tradition of Barolo Chinato alive even in the face of zero consumer interest. "He was hard at it" not to stop, says Augusto.

Camille Riviere is on I'll Drink to That!

Camille Riviere has started a new wine importation venture focusing on the wines of France, called, aptly enough, Camille Riviere Selection. Today she speaks on I'll Drink to That! about how she got started and how she went about building a small portfolio of wines to bring in. Camille is someone who knows the wine markets in both New York and Paris extremely well, and you might be curious to hear what she has to say about the differences between the two.

Camille brings a fresh perspective and a forthright attitude to the talk, and if you want to listen along, you can hear what she had to say on the dedicated website, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

Pour a glass of wine and listen in. It's a fun conversation.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Still adjusting

I'm feeling a little off balance with the change in season. Give me a bit to sort it out and I'll promise I'll be back with some more daily pictures soon enough. Also, some real posts.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ned Benedict is on I'll Drink to That!

Ned Benedict in his natural habitat: pouring a tremendous bottle of old wine.
Ned Benedict is one of those personages that shows up maybe once in a generation, if we are lucky.  A shining beacon of truth that overcomes all manner of difficult obstacles to herald a bright and beautiful...wait, well, maybe that's somebody else.  But anyway Ned is a very cool dude, and my buddy, and boy does he have some good stories to share.  Which he does today on I'll Drink to That!  Ned is a partner at Grand Cru Selections, and was once a sommelier at some of the top wine restaurants in New York that you may have heard about.  If you have heard about them, wonderful, you'll love the anecdotes Ned tells all the more.  If you haven't heard about those restaurants, get ready for a great ride anyway.  Ned knows the who, what, and when and he will fill you in with aplomb.

This is a good listen, my friends.  Don't miss.

Ned's interview can be found on iTuneson Stitcher for your Droid users, or on the dedicated I'll Drink to That! website.

You can also follow Ned on twitter @nedbenedict

I repeat, don't miss this interview.