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This week we had the privilege of having a Q&A and casual lunch with Greg Lambrecht, the inventor of the wine preservation gadget called Coravin that I blogged about last December. Since I have been using this device in the NYC market almost daily, I thought what else is there to know? Turns out quite a bit.  IMG_2221

The story of its development is fascinating. Before inventing the Coravin, he invented lots of medical devices, such as better, more comfortable ways to administer chemotherapy to patients (and not surprisingly, many of these medical devices had needles). When his wife became pregnant with their second child, he needed a way to tap into his wine without committing to the consumption of an entire bottle. The approach in developing this wine saving device was truly scientific as well, with lots of trial and error. Nitrogen was apparently a runner up to argon, but at the five year mark of tasting control samples, the wines under nitrogen didn’t hold up. Under argon? No detectable difference between a new and ‘accessed’ bottle.

Our office wine room is littered with Coravin’d bottles that did not, in fact, stand the test of time. It was necessary to sample any bottle before taking it out (the latest turned bottle was a Dupont Tissanderot Mazis-Chambertin 1996, sigh). So here are some tips for how to have this NOT happen:IMG_2224

  • First, it is essential to clear the needle of air and/or wine before EVERY use, otherwise you are introducing oxygen to that bottle. You can watch a demonstration here.
  • Second, throw away the yellow needle and spout protectors. Keeping them on creates the perfect environment for microbial spoilage, which can also be transferred to the wine resulting in a slow death.

Lastly, besides Greg being so absolutely likable, there is still a lot of excitement about the Coravin and the product is about to go international. I even had a few of my buyers attend this seminar and they got to play with it first hand. Greg does admit that in his years of developing the product, he never even considered that his biggest supporters would be in wine distribution.

Sarah Ford, Beverage Director at Aquavit, tests out the Coravin.

Sarah Ford, Beverage Director at Aquavit, tests out the Coravin.

Wine consumers in New York should be aware of what is happening in Albany right now that could greatly affect Cork Taxthe cost and choices of the wines they can drink. The legislation is called ‘At-Rest’ and it means that wine needs to be warehoused in New York state at least one day prior to sale to restaurants and retailers. The problem is that all mid- and small-size distributors warehouse their wine in New Jersey, which is closer to the port where wine arrives from abroad. Only the two largest distributors, Southern and Empire warehouse in state, and so no surprise, they are the ones pushing hard for this bill. In fact, they have collectively donated more than $500,000 to Governor Cuomo and Senator Jeff Klein (and a few others up north) to get this nonsense passed. Why? Because they want to crush the competition, and they will do so by any means in order to increase their own profits.

This is a bill that solves nothing but could be detrimental to many. Not only will many of the smaller guys potentially go out of business (my company included), but consumers can expect far fewer choices at much higher prices, as much as $7 a bottle! It has all the makings of a fairy tale, in which a big bad wolf with sharp fangs preys on innocent grandmothers, but it is indeed a very real threat.

So what can you do to bring about a happier ending? Go to Stop the Cork Tax and tell Albany to put ‘At-Rest’ to rest, for good.

On Monday evening, I put my pairing guidelines to the test (place, structure and flavor) posted earlier this week.   All the wines worked very well with each course and participants were amazed at how much the wine changed after trying them with the different courses. Flight two was especially fun in that a white wine worked with meat and a red wine worked with the creamy risotto … it was a fun and delicious evening, to say the least!

Here was the line up:

FLIGHT ONE.

Trio of ceviche: tuna and watermelon, scallops and avocado, wild salmon and oysters.

Viña Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2012. A lively, crisp wine from the home of ceviche (Casablanca Valley, Chile). Intense aromas of lime, grapefruit and pineapple with crisp acidity that is typical for this variety. 

Pionero Mundi Rias Baixas Albariño 2011. This aromatic white wine comes from the northwest corner of Spain (known as Green Spain for its Celtic and maritime influences). Seafood dominates the cuisine here! 

Other wines that could worked with this course: Dry Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley or South Africa, dry or off-dry Riesling, northern Italian Pinot Grigio (Alto Adige), Vermentino, Prosecco, or a rosé with vibrant acidity.

* * * * *

FLIGHT TWO.

Long Island duck breast with English peas risotto, white asparagus and crispy leeks.

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Ca dei Frati Lugana 2012. The Veneto is the capital of risotto, so I went with the local white made from Trebbiano di Lugana, which was aged on the lees for six months for added weight and flavor.

Domaine Chaponne Cuvée Joseph Morgon 2010. This Beaujolais cru is made entirely from Gamay, a lighter red with lighter tannins, but great acidity and lots of berry, cherry flavor.

Other wines that could have worked with this course: Viognier from Northern Rhône, Gewurztraminer, dry Furmint, any of the Beaujolais Crus, unoaked Pinot Noir, Barbera from Piedmont, Valpolicella Classico (Corvina), Bardolino, Grignolino, Tempranillo roble (lighter style), premium Lambruscos, Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley (Saumur, Anjou Rouge, Bourgeuil), Zweigelt from Austria.

* * * * * 

FLIGHT THREE.

Roasted Colorado lamb loin with Spring vegetable succotash and rosemary jus.

Kir-Yanni Ramnista 2009 (Xinomavro). A wild red from one of Greece’s best winemakers, this grape is often described as a stylistic cross between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, it ages beautifully.

 Domaine le Galantin Longue Garde Bandol Rouge 2000. This is a personal favorite of mine for roast beef and lamb. Made from a blend of old vine Mourvedre and Grenache from southern France, made only in select vintages. 

Other wines that could have worked with this course: Cabernet Sauvignon, Northern Rhône Reds (Côte-Rotie, St-Joseph) Merlot, Tuscan Cabernet Franc, Aglianico from Southern Italy, Agiorgitiko from mainland Greece, Blaufranksich, Douro reds (Touriga Nacional).

From Piedmont we traveled to the Veneto and the fair city of Verona, Italy’s unofficial wine capital and home to Italy’s major wine fest every Spring: Vinitaly. The landscape around Verona is dominated by cherry trees (very beautiful in Spring), and of course, vineyards! Exactly what is grown in the vineyard depends on where you are in the Veneto. The region offers a rich tapestry of wine styles; it is the perfect destination for wine lovers.

Lovely Verona is definitely a destination for wine lovers …

One of the most famous wine regions in the Veneto is Valpolicella, which loosely translates as ‘valley of many cellars’, located about 20 minutes north of Verona. The vineyards in Valpolicella are situated throughout the foothills of the Dolomites (Italian Alps), of varying elevation and exposure (the direction of the vineyard slopes). The soils are fossil rich, a combination of morainic and limestone. This alone explains why the wines are so diverse, but it doesn’t end there…

Here, the red grape Corvina is key. This vibrant grape is cherished for its tart acidity and notes of plum and cherry in straight Valpolicella wines. Rondinella and Molinara grapes can play supportive roles in the wines of this region, but the latter brings less to the blend. And while the blend is more or less consistent, the styles vary.

  • In straight Valpolicella wines, grapes are crushed and the fermentation process is normal. The end result is (usually) a medium-bodied wine with crisp acidity and fresh fruit flavors.
  • In Ripasso della Valpolicella style versions (where the wine is ‘repassed’ over the gross lees, i.e. grape skins, pulp and yeasts, a process known as appassimento) it is a degree higher in alcohol, richness and complexity of flavor.
  • In Amarone della Valpolicella, which is produced from grapes that have been carefully dried for three to four months before fermentation even begins, you’ll get a fuller-bodied wine with deeper, darker fruit notes along with coffee, toffee, sweet spice, pepper, tar and mocha–all of which depends on the use of oak in raising the wine.
  • Lastly, Recioto della Valpolicella is made in a similar method to Amarone, but with even higher concentrations of sugar so the final wine is a sweet, dessert style wine of great complexity. Both Amarone and Recioto are considered ‘meditation’ wines, but can be expensive, as they are very expensive to produce.

These Corvina grapes have been dried for about four months and are ready for pressing. As one can see, there is not much juice left in the grapes!

Next up: What is Classico and Superiore about Valpolicella?

This feels a little like a flashback to elementary school days, when every student was forced to recite those dreaded  ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ reports to the rest of the class.

1. I was not at all on vacation. Not really, anyway. And ..

2. I actually LIKE sharing my adventures in the field with my small but growing list of readers.

So as we move into the lovely season of autumn, I want to recap over the next few weeks some of my summer travel highlights from Italy, South America and Downeast Maine.

Stay tuned …

SD