Tag Archives: USA

Alaskan Teddy Bear

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sitting up

In the summer, Alaskan coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) congregate near the shores of the sea and other bodies of water waiting for wild salmon to come back to the very streams they were born in and swim upstream to reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth and lay their eggs. Clearly, this offers the bears a wonderful opportunity to hunt salmon and feed off of their flesh and especially their eggs, of which they are particularly fond.

The salmon run is particularly important to the bears because the hibernation period is fast approaching and brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months.

However, sometimes the salmon are a little late on their spawning schedule… or the bears are a little early for the party, which means that the bears have some time to kill while they wait for their favorite prey to arrive. So bears go into “energy saving” mode and they just lazily hang out near the water waiting for their lunch to be served.

The coastal brown bear in the image above was just sitting in the sun near a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, probably daydreaming of the hordes of sockeye salmon it will soon start chasing all over the place…

To me, it looked just like a teddy bear neatly arranged in a sitting position by a toy store salesperson! 😉

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As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Yoga Meditation (or Balanced Rock at Twilight)

Balanced Rock at twilight

Shooting famous, over-photographed landmarks such as balanced rock in Utah’s Arches National Park challenges the photographer to come up with images that are not cliche, that portray such landmarks in a different light, from a different perspective or in a fresher way.

Silhouetting your subject may be a way to reinterpret such well-known scenes. Silhouetting essentially transposes your 3D subject into a 2D world, so shape becomes key for a successful silhouette. Thus, moving around your subject, changing your angle of view may radically  alter your final image, the 2D rendition of your subject.

When I saw a sunset with potential (because of some lingering clouds) behind me, I quickly hiked to the other side of balanced rock and moved around until that impressive rock formation took on the shape (at least in my eyes) of a person sitting before a beautiful sunset in a yoga meditation position. Click, click, and there we go: a symbolic rendition of balanced rock! 😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Wine App Review: Winery Passport

Winery Passport App IconLast week, Scott, the developer of a brand new wine-related app, reached out to me to let me know about the roll out and to ask me whether I would download it and give it a spin and, if I liked it, whether I would write a review.

So, as you are reading this, you may already guess that I did download it and I did like it 😉

But let’s start from the beginning: the app is called Winery Passport (WP).

Screenshot5

Before we get more into it, note that you may have an interest in this app provided that you (i) are into wine (of course!), (ii) live in or plan a wine-focused trip to the USA, and (iii) at least for now, are iOS based.

Now, what exactly does WP do? Essentially, WP is (or will soon be) a database of all the wineries in the US coupled with a cool GPS feature that shows the wineries that are closest to wherever you are, ordering them from closest to farthest away and showing you how far you are from each of them. Alternatively, you can also browse or search the entire winery archive, that is broken down by State.

Either way, whenever you select a winery, WP shows you its address and gives you a few options, including taking you to the winery’s Web site, connecting to Google Maps so you can get driving directions from wherever you are to the winery with one click, or even call the winery directly from within the app.

Screenshot1Thanks to these two different modes, WP’s features come in handy whether you have a sudden urge to discover and visit a winery near you, regardless of where in the US you are, or you are planning a trip to a US wine region and want to chart your route based on where the various wineries of the area are located or their average rating. Pretty cool, and all at your fingertip.

But there’s more. WP also a “passport” part that keeps track of the wineries that you visit, lets you rate them and take notes and even syncs with Facebook and Twitter so you can share your experience with other WP users. Neat idea.

And in case you are wondering how much downloading WP is going to set you back, well no sweat and click that download button as it is a free app!

Screenshot3Now, although WP is fully functioning and sleek looking, here are a few things to bear in mind:

1. The winery database is still a work in progress: to date, there’s almost 1000 wineries in 17 States, all on the East Coast so far (so, no California yet), that have been uploaded already, but they are quite obviously not all. Scott is working to add more and eventually map all 50 States out, but it is a huge task and it is going to take a while. Scott anticipates getting to 25 States by August.

2. So far, WP is only for the iPhone or iPod Touch. I asked Scott whether he planned to also develop a version for the iPad and he said that it would be rolled out later on, as right now completing the winery census is understandably his priority.

Screenshot4

3. Regarding Android: I asked and Scott said once the iOS version is completed, with all the wineries uploaded, he would look into making an Android version, so Android users sit tight and hold on as no hope is lost! 🙂

Wrapping things up: I really like the idea behind WP and its implementation: the app is sleek, simple and yet very effective… and it’s free! I can’t wait for the full-screen version for the iPad to be released!

Rating: Very Good and recommended

Thank you, Scott, for developing such a cool app, making it available for free and giving me heads up about it!

For more information about WP, visit the developer’s Web site. You can download WP from Apple’s App Store or by clicking here.

Landscape Arch at Night and a Few Night Photography Tips

Landscape Arch at night

I took this image of Landscape Arch at Arches National Park at night (which you actually can see much better on my Web site), with the lights of the town of Moab in the background. With certain over photographed subjects, sometimes you need to be creative to come up with images that are not cliché and that still represent those towering creations of nature in their beauty and wildness. Night photography can be an option to resort to, if you are prepared to adjust your meal schedule around it and if you master the technique to get the shot.

A few tips on night photography:

1. Scout your spot earlier in the day to previsualize your shot and identify where precisely you will want to set up later in the day

2. Get to your spot before sunset so, if suitable, you can squeeze in some bonus sunset shots but most importantly you can set up your gear, frame your shot and focus when you can still see something!

3. If you shoot digital, (i) make sure the long exposure noise reduction function of your camera and, if it has one, its mirror lock up feature are activated; (ii) secure your camera to a sturdy tripod; (iii) with your camera in M exposure mode, set your aperture to a low f/stop (say anywhere between f/2.8 and f/4.0 or thereabouts) and set your shutter speed and ISO to a base exposure (of course, you will have to slow down your shutter speed as the night progresses); (iv) if you have a cable release (which you definitely should), connect it to your camera

4. Shoot a series of images, starting from twilight (when the sky will still be tinged with delicate orange, pink, magenta and violet hues) going forward to when the sky will turn pitch black, adjusting your exposure accordingly

5. Decide whether you want the stars to record as dots or streaks of light (star trails) and set your shutter speed/ISO accordingly (for best results, try to keep your ISO as low as possible, but you may have to compromise a bit): as a rule of thumb, bear in mind that anything slower than say 15/20 sec will cause at least some of the stars to streak noticeably – for pleasing star trails you will need exposures north of 30 seconds up to several minutes or even hours (the longer the exposure, the longer the trails – remember, every time you double the time the shutter stays open, with the others parameters staying the same, you add one extra stop of light to your exposure): this means that on your camera your shutter speed dial shall be set to Bulb and you will have to use a cable release and to experiment timing your exposure yourself (an illuminated digital watch may come in handy)

6. Be aware that the longer your exposure, the greater the chances that orbiting satellites and commercial airplanes will ruin your shot leaving all sorts of dotted luminous trails across it…

And by the way, today in the US is Nature Photography Day, a day that in the last 8 years has been designated by NANPA (the North American Nature Photography Association) “to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes locally and worldwide”. So, if you are game, you might as well be inspired by the night photography tips on this post and go out with your camera and tripod tonight to give it a shot!  🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

In the Name of the Grandfather: Wine Origins in the USA

StefanoThis post finds its roots in a virtual conversation that I had a while ago with fellow blogger Suzanne from the cooking blog A Pug in the Kitchen in the comment section of my post on Flora’s Table about my participation in the 2011 Vintage Port Tour in NYC.

In that context Suzanne asked me about a bottle of “Port” that someone had gifted her, a Port that was made in the United States (California), from a grape variety that is not among the over 100 grape varieties that are recommended or permitted by Portuguese regulations for the production of Port and that (literally speaking, dulcis in fundo) had some chocolate syrup added to it (ugh). The ensuing discussion prompted me to promise her that I would publish a post about what is kosher and what is not in the US in regard to the use of certain notorious foreign geographical terms associated to wine, so here we go.

In a Nutshell

The short of it is that there is good news and bad news for the American wine consumer. The good news is that since 2006 the US has had a set of rules in place to prevent the appropriation of those famous foreign wine terms by wineries in the United States; the bad news is that those same rules contain a grandfather provision to the effect that those US wineries that already marketed their wines using those restricted foreign names before 2006 are authorized to legally continue to do so as an exception to the general rule. But let’s dig a little deeper into this.

The Sad State of Affairs Pre-2006

US regulations (namely, section 5388(c) of Title 26, Internal Revenue Code, of the US Code – in short, 26 USC 5388(c)) identify certain “name[s] of geographical significance, which [are] also the designation of a class or type of wine” that “shall be treated as semi-generic” designations. These semi-generic names include such world-famous European wine names as Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Marsala, Madeira, Moselle, Port, Rhine Wine, Sauterne, Sherry, Tokay and others.

Until 2006, those US regulations permitted the appropriation of any of such names by any US winery provided that the winery disclosed on the label, next to the appropriated name, “the true place of origin of the wine” (for instance, “Russian River Valley Champagne”, such as the one that was unfortunately served on the occasion of the inauguration of President Obama’s second term in office and other US Presidents before him).

In essence, by so doing US wineries were legally authorized to exploit the notoriety of those wine names that were clearly associated with specific European territories, permitted grape varieties and strictly regulated enological practices (to have an idea of what I am talking about, you may want to refer to my previous post on Champagne and other Classic Method sparkling wines) by slapping those names on the bottles of their wines and just adding the State they were made in. This prompted the birth of not only Zinfandel-made “Chocolate Port” but also such other enological creations as “Almond Flavored California Champagne“, “California Chablis” coming in 5-liter cartons reportedly made from such varieties as Thompson Seedless, Chasselas, and Burger (instead of Chardonnay), and so on.

Which begs the question: what purpose were those rules serving? Were they in the interest of the education of the US consumers or perhaps were they just meant to increase the sales of domestic wine producers by allowing them to piggy back on world famous names that had gained notoriety through centuries of know how, hard work and quality regulations? One gets to wonder, because it looks like such rules were actually promoting confusion and misinformation among most of the vast US wine consumer base without educating them about the importance of concepts such as appellations, terroir, traceability, authenticity, specific enological practices, local traditions and ultimately quality.

2006: New Dawn or Unsatisfactory Compromise?

On March 10, 2006 the US Government and the European Union executed an agreement on trade in wine (the “US/EU Wine Agreement“) pursuant to which, among other things, (i) each party recognized the other’s current winemaking practices; (ii) the US agreed to restrict the use of such semi-generic wine names in the US market to wines originating in the EU; and (iii) each party recognized certain names of origin of the other party in its own market.

As a result of the US/EU Wine Agreement, legislation was passed in the US (in the context of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act) on December 20, 2006 to amend 26 USC 5388(c) so that it would be consistent with the principles set forth in the US/EU Wine Agreement.

So, everything seemed finally to go in the right direction, with a commitment by the US Government to prohibit potentially deceptive practices such as appropriating famous foreign wine names. However, things are rarely black and white and, as they say, for every rule there is an exception: enter the grandfather clause.

Beside agreeing on banning the appropriation of such famous foreign wine names going forward, the US/EU Wine Agreement “grandfathers” (i.e., exceptionally tolerates) those same prohibited practices as long as they had already been in place in the US and approved by means of the issue of a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) before March 10, 2006.

This exception is the reason why certain US wineries still enjoy the privilege of legally calling wines made in the United States Champagne, Port, Chablis, Chianti, Sherry and so on.

Boycotting Grandpa

From a strictly legal standpoint, I can see the reasons why the US Government had a hard time stripping wineries that had until that time been authorized to legally use those names of the right to use them anymore.

However, in practical terms, I think that creating a division in the market between those wineries that are authorized to continue a potentially deceptive practice and those that are not just because the former happened to start such practices before (or instead of) the latter is wrong because:

(i) it keeps confusing the consumers and does nothing to educate them by introducing them to the originals of some of the world’s most famous wines; and

(ii) it sounds like an unjustified penalty to all those US wineries that had “done the right thing” by refraining from following such dubious practices and building customer recognition for their own products based on their merits alone, instead of taking the shortcut of “name dropping”.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, I have personally decided not to patronize or review wines made by those US wineries that have chosen to carry on those potentially deceptive practices, although permitted under the grandfather clause of the US/EU Wine Agreement.

Wine Origins

On a final note, in 2005 the regions of Champagne (France) and Porto (Portugal) joined forces to create an organization based in Washington DC that is called The Center for Wine Origins and that aims at educating and sensitizing the US consumers and lawmakers as to the importance of the place of origin of a wine and of affording greater protection to wine place names by keeping wine labels accurate so that consumers are given a chance to make informed choices when selecting their wines. You can learn more about this initiative through the organization’s Web site, www.WineOrigins.com.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts on this subject through the comment section below.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine at Sunset

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) at sunset

This image is of a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) and it was made at sunset in the Inyo National Forest (CA): these trees can only be found in certain mountainous areas of California, Nevada and Utah and are really remarkable in that, with some of them being almost 5000 years old, they are the oldest living tree on earth.

Bristlecone pines have adapted to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environments. Typically, they live in high elevation habitats in areas with rocky soil, low rainfall and long winters.

They grow extremely slowly (a 40 year old bristlecone pine may not reach 6 inches!) and, at high elevations, they grow to 60 feet tall. Also, their needles can remain green for over 45 years. At low elevations, bristlecone pines grow straight, while at high elevations their trunks become twisted. Their root system is very shallow so as to allow maximum water uptake in arid environments.

For more information about these incredible trees, you may check out the relevant pages on the Websites of the National Wildlife Federation, the BBC, and the National Park Service.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Windows Arch and Turret Arch Before Dawn

Windows Arch and Turret Arch at twilight

Utah’s Arches National Park is a special place that rewards visitors with stunning red rock desert views and over 2000 natural sandstone arches and giant balanced rocks.

I captured the above image of Windows Arch, with Turret Arch in the background, at twilight, just before dawn, from a slightly elevated vantage point. Given the bright desert sunlight and the crowds that generally assemble around the most iconic features of the Park, photographing at the fringes of the day or at night are among the best options available to those who do not simply seek to bring home a snapshot from Arches.

Immediately before dawn, contrast is low and manageable but the sky is already lit and takes on delicate pastel tones that subtly complement the warm hues of the ubiquitous rocks and sand. Add a pleasing composition (especially if you are at one of those over photographed spots) et les jeux sont faits 🙂

Oh, and by the way, Happy Memorial Day! 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

American Graffiti

Sego Canyon (UT) Pictographs and Century Old Graffiti

I took this image of ancient Native American petroglyphs in Utah’s Sego Canyon, not far from Thompson Springs. These petroglyphs were scratched on the rocks of Sego Canyon by Native Americans of the Fremont Culture, who lived in the area between 600 and 1250 of the Common Era. As you will notice, however, just by looking at the top left quarter of the image above, more recent graffiti were also scratched on those very same rocks, right by the Fremont petroglyphs.

When I was framing this image, I wanted to convey the juxtaposition of “ancient graffiti” like the Fremont petroglyphs with relatively speaking more modern graffitis that two different people, seemingly in 1884 and in 1902, felt the need to scratch right next to (if not directly on) those vestiges of the past.

Which begs the question: considering that those “younger” graffiti are by now more than a century old, does age make them more acceptable to us viewers? Do you see them as a “work of art in the work of art” or as the condemnable act of vandals who inexorably defaced that precious Native American rock art?

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

Beside loving bears, which I find truly fascinating animals, I love Alaska: such beautiful country, most of which is still wild and pristine, notwithstanding human efforts to drill more oil out of it (will we ever get rid of so dirty an energy source?…)

I visited Alaska twice, and I hope I will be able to go back in not too long a time. The first time I went to Katmai National Park, and the second time back to Katmai (although in a different area) and then on to the Kodiak archipelago. Alaska and Katmai in particular are among the best places you may be at to observe and photograph coastal brown bears. These are often interchangeably called “grizzlies” but, although they both belong to the species Ursus arctos, coastal brown bears (as the name implies) prevalently live in coastal areas and tend to be bigger than grizzlies who are considered a distinct subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis) and live inland, away from major bodies of water.

If you travel to Katmai in the Summer, chances are that you are going to witness one of the most exciting phenomena in the life cycle of a coastal brown bear: the salmon run. Around that time of the year, wild sockeye salmon enter their spawning phase, during which they somehow find their way back from the ocean to the very same river where they were born so that they can work their way upstream, reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth, lay their eggs and generally die within a couple of weeks (because when they return to their original freshwater environment, they stop eating and live off their fat reserves).

Clearly, brown bears are not indifferent to nature’s call that brings the salmon back to accessible waterways to reproduce. Since fall and then winter are fast approaching (and with them a long period of hibernation), brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months. In this period, coastal brown bears congregate by the shore or next to river banks anxiously waiting for one of their favorite prey to arrive in huge numbers.

When salmon eventually comes, all hell breaks loose and bears start chasing salmon in shallow waters to catch them and eat them. Bears are especially fond of salmon eggs, so much so that, after a bear has eaten enough fish for a day, sometimes it keeps catching more salmon just to eat the eggs while discarding the rest (for the seagulls’ happiness).

While I was observing a group of about six bears chasing salmon in the estuary of a river in Katmai, this young bear started sprinting in my general direction in pursuit of a salmon (that eventually proved to be faster than the bear) and gave me a great opportunity to freeze the motion of the bear at the peak of the action. The low angle of the image (that I shot kneeling in the sand) accentuates the majestic nature of the bear and creates an eye-level connection with the animal. Hope you like it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Misty Tetons

Misty Tetons

I took this photograph of the Tetons at sunrise on an Autumn day that, when I got on location, did not look very promising.

I had woken up well before daybreak and I had driven to Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park so I would be there when it was still dark, I could secure a spot and I had time to set up and compose before dawn. But, when I got there the entire range of the Tetons was concealed behind a thick veil of fog which made any attempt to photograph the mountains all but useless. I considered turning the car around and driving back to the lodge to hit the sack for some more sleep, but fought the temptation, hiked to a place I had spotted the day before and set up, hoping for the best.

And as it sometimes happens, nature did cooperate and right when the first sun rays started hitting the summit of the Tetons, the top part of the fog veil dissolved, revealing the mountain peaks bathed in sweet alpenglow with a base layer of fog lingering at the bottom, which added a touch of eerie mystery.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you 🙂

Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013: The Full Story

Vinitaly

Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013 was held in New York on January 28 and I have had the opportunity to attend, with the added bonus of meeting in person Anatoli, the author of the excellent wine blog Talk-A-Vino, and doing the walk around together. Anatoli is a remarkable man with a deep and broad knowledge of wines of the world and it has been a real pleasure spending a day together enjoying the fair, sampling many good Italian wines and comparing notes. If you have never visited Anatoli’s blog, please make sure to make time to check it out and explore the wealth of quality information regarding wines and spirits that he has amassed there because it is really impressive. Also, if you are interested in reading more about this event from a different angle than mine, check out Anatoli’s three-post series on it: Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 1, Just Some Numbers, Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 2, Wine Seminars and Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 3, Wine, And More Wine.

Slow WineSo, you may be wondering, how was it after all? Let’s cut to the chase: I very much enjoyed my visit at Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013 and I found the event to be well organized, with one very annoying exception that is the organization of the restricted-seating seminars focusing on specific wines.

According to the organizers’ Web site, one should have pre-registered on-line for every seminar he or she would be interested in and, provided that at the time of registration there were still seats available, a ticket would be issued to show at the entrance. Both Anatoli and I followed this process and successfully registered for two seminars, obtaining the respective admission tickets. Problem is that when we showed up with our tickets at the first seminar the person at the door tried to deny us access on the theory that the event was first come first served. This happened to a number of other people who had registered online and were being denied access as well. So, we got annoyed, pointed out the evident flaw in their system and eventually were let in, but the whole organization of the seminar was a huge flop.

Having said that, let’s take a quick look at some basic information about the event itself: the exhibitors’ area was divided into two zones: the larger one had tasting stations for the 78 wineries that were part of the Slow Wine portion of the event, while a smaller area was devoted to the Vinitaly part of the event with larger tables for 40 additional wineries as well as the representatives of 11 U.S. importers who had brought with them a selection of wines from 46 wineries that they represent. In both sections of the event many flagship bottles of the various represented wineries were available for tasting, generally coupled with a “second vin” and/or an “entry-level” wine. This worked out pretty well because in many cases it illustrated the various lines made by a certain winery and oftentimes showcased the very good quality/price ratio of certain second vins or entry-level wines even compared to the top-of-the-line wine(s) from the same producer.

Among the many very good wines that we got to sample at the fair during our wine tasting “marathon” (along with a few not-so-very-good ones), these are my personal top of the crop:

(A) PIEMONTE

  • VajraBarolo Bricco delle Viole 2008: this was my favorite Barolo among those I tried at the event. Super elegant, seducing aromas of lush red fruit and spices, with silky smooth tannins despite being still pretty young, and a very long finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • Elvio CognoBarolo Ravera 2008: my second best among the Barolo’s: very different from Vajra’s, with a nice bouquet of red fruit, floral hints and tobacco; distinct but smooth tannins and plenty of structure. Very Good Very Good
  • DamilanoBarolo Cannubi 2008: third step of my personal podium for Barolo’s – complex in the nose with red fruit, spices and hints of soil, well defined tannins which can benefit from a few more years of aging and quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(B) LIGURIA

  • VisAmorisRiviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Verum 2011: without a doubt the best Pigato I have ever tasted so far – it undergoes a short phase of maceration on the skins in order to maximize the extraction of the aromas, which results in an intense and seducing bouquet of apple and herbs and a good balance in the mouth between its acidity and minerality on the one hand and its smoothness on the other. Outstanding Outstanding

(C) LOMBARDIA

  • Ca’ del BoscoFranciacorta Cuvee’ Annamaria Clementi 2004: there is only one word for this Classic Method spumante – wow! Seven years on its lees for a wine that is sleek, elegant, refined, with a wonderful superfine perlage, a complex bouquet alluding to several fascinating aromas, like peach, honey, croissant, hazelnut, minerals, and a very long finish. Spectacular Spectacular – the only problem is… its price tag!
  • Ar.Pe.Pe.Valtellina Superiore Sassella Rocce Rosse Riserva 2001: together with Fay (who was not present at the event) this is one of my favorite producers of Valtellina Superiore (a varietal wine made of 100% Nebbiolo grapes, locally known as Chiavennasca), and the Rocce Rosse was outastanding, with fine aromas of cherries, spices and tobacco, very smooth tannins and good structure with a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

(D) VENETO

  • Trabucchi D’IllasiRecioto della Valpolicella 2006: oh man, this is a truly outstanding sweet red wine made from the same base grapes of Amarone (Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella), perfect to be paired with chocolate or chocolate-based desserts – exquisite and intense bouquet of black fruit, black berries, licorice and vanilla, with a wonderful balance between sweetness and smooth tannins and a very long, seducing finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • Trabucchi D’IllasiAmarone della Valpolicella Cent’Anni Riserva 2004: outstanding Amarone, with a superb bouquet of red flowers, wild cherries, plum, spices and dark chocolate; in the mouth it is warm and balanced with a great smoothness complementing good acidity and noticeable but smooth tannins, and a long finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • PieropanSoave Classico Calvarino 2010: a very good Soave made of a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes which literally hits you in the nose with an exhuberant minerality and aromas of apple, citrus and white flowers; in the mouth a lively acidity and distinct minerality are balanced by a good extent of smoothness. Very Good Very Good

(E) FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

  • Le Vigne di Zamo’Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano Vigne Cinquant’anni 2010: wonderful Friulano with a pleasant and intense bouquet of citrus, apple, tropical fruit and minerals. In the mouth noticeable acidity and minerality countered by good smoothness. Spectacular Spectacular

(F) TOSCANA

  • Podere Il CarnascialeCaberlot 2002: first off, a note of gratitude to fellow blogger and wine connoisseur Laissez Fare who introduced me to the fascinating world of Caberlot. Regarding our tasting, actually the good people of Il Carnasciale made available a vertical tasting of Caberlot from vintages 2009, 2008 and 2002 – all were very good, but to me 2002 was truly outstanding, which should not come as a surprise for a wine that needs aging to be at its best (incidentally, Caberlot is not only the name of the wine, but also that of the grape, a rare cross between Cabernet Franc and Merlot). The wine offered a wonderful bouquet with aromas of berries, spices, soil, tobacco and dark chocolate, silky smooth tannins in the mouth, plenty of structure and a long finish. Caberlot is only available in magnum format, in an extremely limited production and for a hefty price tag. Spectacular Spectacular

(G) UMBRIA

  • TabarriniAdarmando 2010: an excellent white wine 100% made out of Trebbiano Spoletino grapes, with a pleasant floral and fruity bouquet, with aromas of citrus and peach, good acidity and structure. Very Good Very Good
  • TabarriniSagrantino di Montefalco Campo alla Cerqua 2008: intense aromas of red flowers, ripe plums, black pepper and licorice, noticeable tannins in the mouth that will benefit from more years of aging in the bottle and plenty of structure, with a long finish. Very Good Very Good
  • Arnaldo CapraiSagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 2007: my personal favorite interpretation of Sagrantino, with a complex bouquet of cherries, spices, dark chocolate and tobacco and then the quintessential sensory definition of the astringent mouth feel of tannins, with plenty of tannins that are not harsh but will be smoother with a few more years of aging and a very good smoothness to counterbalance them, and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

(H) MARCHE

  • Marotti CampiVerdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Salmariano 2009: nice bouquet of white flowers, peach, citrus and minerals; good acidity and a quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(I) ABRUZZO

  • Cantina FrentanaPecorino Donna Greta 2010: a very good wine made of a blend of indigenous white-berried Pecorino grapes and Chardonnay grapes, with aromas of white flowers, citrus and vanilla, lively acidity balanced by a good smoothness, and a quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(J) BASILICATA

  • Cantine del NotaioAglianico del Vulture Il Sigillo 2008: a wonderful Aglianico del Vulture, with a complex bouquet of plum, black berries, dark chocolate and tobacco; plenty of structure in the mouth, with smooth tannins countered by good smoothness, and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – in my view with a couple more years in the bottle it may become spectacular.

(K) SICILIA

  • PlanetaNoto Nero d’Avola Santa Cecilia 2008: if you have been following this blog for a while you know I love this winery, and the Santa Cecilia is one of my favorite red wines in their lineup – with fine aromas of ripe red fruit, plum, wild berries, dark chocolate, licorice and soil; in the mouth smooth tannins balanced by good smoothness and plenty of structure. Outstanding Outstanding
  • PlanetaCarricante 2011: very good white wine made out of 100% indigenous Carricante grapes, with an elegant bouquet of apple, citrus, honey and minerals; good acidity and noticeable minerality in the mouth balanced out by a good extent of smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding

Finally, one last note on my favorite seminar of the event: the Nino Negri Master Class, a vertical tasting of six vintages (2009, 2007, 2004, 2002, 2001 and 1997) of Nino Negri’s flagship wine, the Sforzato della Valtellina 5 Stelle Sfursat, a 100% Nebbiolo (AKA Chiavennasca) dry red wine from the mountainous region of Valtellina in Lombardia, made after a 3-month drying process of the grapes in small crates in ventilated premises to concentrate sugar and aromas due to the evaporation of the water present in the grapes, which leads to a 30% weight loss in the berries. This results in an extraordinary wine with plenty of structure and a jaw-dropping 15 to 16 degree ABV after regular alcoholic fermentation.

To me, the best vintage among those presented in the vertical tasting was 2001, a garnet red wine with hints of orange, with a phenomenal bouquet of ripe red fruit, spirited fruit, dark chocolate, resin, minerals, graphite. In the mouth, obviously warm, with very good smoothness balanced out by silky tannins, and finished off by plenty of structure and an endless finish. Spectacular Spectacular

Phew, that’s all! Apologies for the long post, but I hope it will tempt you to try out for yourselves some of these awesome wines. If you do, let me know how you like them.

Cheers!

Winevent – Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri USA Tour: February 7-15, 2013

Gambero Rosso's Tre Bicchieri USA Tour 2013

After the Vinitaly International/Slow Wine event that took place in New York on January 28 (for more information and other dates/cities, see our Winevent post on Flora’s Table), Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour will make three stops in the U.S., as follows:

  • February 7: San Francisco, CA
  • February 12: Chicago, IL
  • February 15: New York, NY

This event is open to media, trade and “Italian wine collectors” (sic) only – links to register for any of the three locations above are available on Gambero Rosso’s Web site. Tre Bicchieri USA 2013 is an event that is not to be missed for those who qualify and are into Italian wine, as the organizers will showcase a selection of only those Italian wines and producers that have been awarded the coveted top “tre bicchieri” (i.e., three glasses) recognition by reputable Gambero Rosso wine guide.

Just to give you an idea,  in an imaginary tour of Italy from North to South, the list of the wines that won the prestigious tre bicchieri includes, limiting ourselves to just one wine per region and trying to avoid the most obvious among the “usual suspects”:

  • Northern ItalyLes Crêtes‘ Chardonnay Cuvée Bois (Valle d’Aosta); Cogno‘s Barolo Vigna Elena Riserva (Piemonte); Bio Vio‘s Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino Aimone (Liguria); Berlucchi‘s Franciacorta Brut Cellarius (Lombardia); Ferrari‘s Trento Extra Brut Perlé Nero (Trentino); Muri Gries‘s Alto Adige Lagrein Abtei Muri Riserva (Alto Adige); Masi‘s Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano (Veneto); Vie di Romans‘s Isonzo Sauvignon Piere (Friuli); Chiarli‘s Lambrusco di Sorbara Del Fondatore (Emilia Romagna);
  • Central ItalyFonterutoli‘s Mix 36 (Toscana); Oasi degli Angeli‘s Kurni (Marche); Caprai‘s Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni (Umbria); Cataldi Madonna‘s Pecorino (Abruzzo);
  • Southern ItalyMastroberardino‘s Taurasi Radici (Campania); Basilisco‘s Aglianico del Vulture Basilisco (Basilicata); Planeta‘s Chardonnay (Sicilia); Argiolas‘s Turriga (Sardegna).

For the entire list of awarded wines, check out Gambero Rosso’s Web site.

We plan on attending the Gambero Rosso event in New York City and reporting on Clicks & Corks thereafter.

Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2012

On November 16, 2012, venerable Wine Spectator magazine published their Top 10 Wines of 2012… according to them, of course! 🙂

In a nutshell, these are the comments I would like to share with you about their 2012 top rankings:

  • Shafer Vineyard‘s Relentless Napa Valley 2008 (a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes) is Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year 2012
  • Only 3 U.S. wines made it to the top 10 (2 from California and 1 from Oregon), down from 4 last year, although one of them was picked as Wine of the Year 2012
  • Only 1 Italian wine made it to the top 10 scoring the ninth place and 94 points (Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona‘s Brunello di Montalcino 2007 DOCG) compared to 2 last year
  • France put 4 of their wines in the top 10, up from 3 last year
  • Just like in 2011, 9 of the top wines are red and only one is white (and, just like last year, the only white wine in the top 10 is a sweet wine)
  • Syrah is present in variable percentages ranging from 100% down to 10% in all of the top 4 wines, with the Wine of the Year being a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah (note that, despite the name, the latter is a separate grape variety from Syrah, which comes from a cross between Syrah and Peloursin vines) and in the third place there being an Australian Shiraz (100% Syrah grapes)

For more detailed information, please refer to Wine Spectator’s Website. I hope you are fortunate enough to get to enjoy one of the top 10 wines of this year!