Friday, November 25, 2011


A Table A Corse
Last month we took our wine club members to one of our favorite places – to what may be the most exciting region of France today: Corsica! This week we had a Corsican wine dinner at THIRSTBARAVIN with Kermit Lynch. If you're interested in purchasing the wines below, or other Corsican wines we served at the dinner, please contact me at
Maestracci Cat
Currently designated as one of the 27 régions of France, although it is a collectivité territoriale by law, Corsica is a beautiful mountainous Mediterranean island, located west of Italy, southeast of France, and north of the island of Sardinia. It's had a long and turbulent history. The earliest Corisican inhabitants have been traced to about 3,000 BC -- they left behind impressive standing stones with staring faces. Later it was settled by Phocaean Greeks (according to Herodotus, the first Greeks to make long sea voyages), shortly after they founded Marseille, some of whom were winemakers who cultivated vines. However, it was sometime during the Middle Ages, apparently, when Corsica was under the rule of the city of Pisa, and later the Republic of Genoa, that Sangiovese was introduced to the island. Over the centuries, Sangiovese has evolved into its unique Corsican version of the varietal: Niellucciu.
When Emilia & I visited the Maestraccis, we got lost driving around the majestic Monte Grossu mountain. It was one of those times when getting lost was fun. There were spectacular views to observe and hairpin turns to navigate. But we were also running late for lunch and had a plane to catch later that afternoon!
Domaine Maestracci is located high in the Monte Grossu foothills, inland from Calvi, in the granite plateau of Reginu, in a microclimate called U Vinu di E Prove – the wine of the Prove. Its unique exposition results in hot and dry daytime temperatures with high-altitude cool nights, all within a short distance from the sea and regular maritime winds. The plateau has been continuously used for vine- and olive- growing for centuries. It was the site of a major olive-pressing mill that supplied a large part of France with its olive oil. In 1945, when the owner of the olive oil mill packed up and moved his operation to colonial Algeria in search of bigger land and greater profits, Roger Maestracci saw a golden opportunity and moved in. The departing olive oil baron left behind a massive concrete structure with walls so thick the air inside stayed cool year round. Originally used to house the mill and the pressed oil, Roger adapted the structure for old wooden casks and concrete tanks and set about replanting vines on the property. Within a few years the domaine established a firm reputation in the area. When it came time for Roger to retire in the early 1980s, he passed along the reigns of the domaine to his son-in-law, Michel Raoust, who still runs the domaine today, along with his daughter, Camille-Anaïs
Michel & Camille-Anais Raoust
DOMAINE MAESTRACCI Corse Calvi Blanc ‘E Prove’ Rouge 2007 
The wines he makes are quintessential Mediterranean food wines. Michel allows the red extended time to age and mellow before release. E Prove Rouge is comprised of about 35% Niellucciu, 35% Grenache, 15% Sciarcarellu and 15% Syrah.  It’s fermented for one year in stainless steel and then raised for another year in large oak barrels (foudres). The wine has aromas of small red berries, spices, liquorice, an ample mouthfeel, with a good balanced, silky dose of tannins. There’s notes of pepper, and hints of blue and black berries, and a touch of menthol. 
For lunch, the Maestraccis served us perfectly grilled zucchini & lamb. Simple farmhouse cooking at its best!
   When you’re in the capital of Corsica, the colorful, picturesque city of Ajaccio, you can’t get very far without seeing the name Abbatucci. Streets, monuments, and plazas carry the name. General Jean-Charles Abbatucci from Ajaccio was a hero of the French Revolution and his comrade-in-arms was another local hero, Napoléon Bonaparte. Step into a wine bar or a restaurant there, and chances are you'll be poured a glass of Domaine Abbatucci. The domaine is run by Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a direct descendant of the General, who has become a local hero of another kind—for providing the local populace with its most sought-after libation.
  Corsicans are proud defenders of their traditions and environment, and with Abbatucci they indulge guilt-free. His wines are certified biodynamic he follows even the most far-out biodynamic practices to the letter. On his rather large estate south of Ajaccio he maintains a pristine poly-culture ecosystem, with herds of sheep foraging through his vines, groves of olive trees on ancient terraces, and large swaths of untouched forests. His vines come from cuttings of indigenous grapes, sourced decades ago from elderly peasant farmers high up in the isolated and mountainous interior of the island, effectively saving several native varieties from extinction. To keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play them traditional Corsican polyphonic songs. After the harvest he’ll treat his cellar to the same music as his grapes ferment and come of age. All part of the terroir, he says. Does all this have an actual effect on the wine? Have a taste for yourself and listen to what the wine has to say.
DOMAINE ABBATUCCI Ajaccio Rouge ‘Cuvee Faustine’ 2009
   Jean-Charles’ Ajaccio Faustine Rouge sees no oak. It’s a selection of Sciacarellu (70%), an indigenous Corsican red grape, blended with Niellucciu (30%), hand-harvested at the best possible ripeness levels, and macerated for thirty days. 
  Lovely in the glass, the wine has a cherry robe with ruby reflections. Its nose evokes the maquis (wild Corsican herbs) and its partial Tuscan roots. It's another singular example of a Thirst wine that isn’t big in body but IS big in flavor lots of texture and a pleasant, long finish. There’s wild blackberries, spice, pepper, discrete red fruits, subtle tannins. Pair it with a charcuterie plate featuring wild boar salumi or lamb with green olives, chestnut cavatelli and pumpkin brown butter (as we did the other night at the wine dinner). We’ve also enjoyed it with pizza with wild mushrooms.
If these wines pique your interest, click here to sign up for our club at the $25, $50, or $100 level and we'll get you started.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

This Month's Wine Club

Our wine club has been getting more and more members, and garnering greater and greater interest. Each month we do our best to keep it interesting and to use the club to educate and shed some light on the often misunderstood and misused term terroir. Or in other words our aim is to elucidate the impact that specific places within specific regions have on the flavor profile of what we call Slow Wine (the wine equivalent of Slow Food) and the magic that happens when real wines are paired well with real food. 

Many of the wines featured in the club are limited and some are exclusive to us. Below is a description of the wines in this month's assortment. If you're interested in joining, or in buying a gift membership, email us @ or ring the store @ 718-596.7643.  

View from Silivio's cellar

This month we have the pleasure of offering you three delicious wines from Piemonte, Italia.

We were already huge fans of Silvio Giamello old-school Nebbiolos and were excited to have the opportunity to visit him at his small estate last year. We had no idea that he also made a white wine until we spotted a few cases of it on the floor of his cellar and asked to try it.

Like most families in the Langhe, the Giamellos started out with a diverse farm that included small parcels of vines, grain, forest, and pastures where their animals grazed. The bulk of the grape harvest was sold off, but the family made enough wine for their own consumption. This system continued for three generations until the 1950s, when farm life became less profitable and many families left the area to find factory work in the cities. Brothers Luigi and Ercole Giamello stayed but launched a trucking company to supplement their income—the first motorized transportation service in the area—and in their absence their mother took care of the daily vineyard work, wisely replanting much of their land to vines. When the economy improved in the ‘70s, Luigi was able to return to the domaine full-time, focusing more on wine production and eventually passing the reins to his son and daughter-in-law, Silvio Giamello and Marina Camia. This fourth generation continues to make wine the only way they can imagine: all vineyard work is natural and chemical-free, and the vinification techniques are purely traditional.

Silvio’s white wine from a favorite lesser-known varietal indigenous to Piedmont, Favorita, is related to the grape Vermentino. We recently received a small allotment of this wine which is made from vines planted in clay with lime-rich marl on a plot of just .005 hectares (.0123 acres)! We are lucky indeed to have some to share with you. This wine is crisp, with lemon-lime zest, that’s great as an aperitivo or with a Piemontese starter like fava bean and goat cheese salad.

La Ghibellina was founded in 2000 by Alberto and Marina Ghibellini, who practice organic agriculture and specialize in the production of high-quality wines that emphasize the typical character of the region. Monterotondo is in the Gavi DOCG—just past the Ligurian border in Piemonte. To get there you can zoom up the highway, in and out of the tunnels through the Apennines, in a great feat of Italian engineering. Or, more leisurely, take the back roads that wind up and over the Apennines to the calcareous hills of Monterotondo.
Alberto and Marina, a husband-and-wife team, believe it is important to understand the texture of Gavi. How it is in bocca, or literally "in the mouth."  They believe that too many producers are trying to extract fruity flavors on the nose from the non-aromatic Cortese grape (the grape of Gavi di Gavi). Marina insists that "it's in the mouth where the dynamic part of the Cortese grape is found; where it really creates an interesting texture." If you've ever been tempted to rattle off lots of nose descriptors without a word about how the wines felt in the mouth, this Gavi won't play your game.
The soil conditions at La Ghibellina, the ideal exposure to sunlight, and the climate, is particularly adapted to the cultivation of Cortese, benefiting from sea breezes that blow in from the nearby Mediterranean coast, making the conditions ideal for the production of wines with a firm and recognizable character.
This wine is aged in stainless steel vats with stirring of the lees for 4 months. It has a hint of crème fraiche texture from the lees stirring along with lemon, chamomile, and hints of sambuca flower. If your dish takes a squeeze of lemon at the end, it’ll sing with this wine.

Long before it became fashionable, Kermit Lynch was the first to champion the benefits of unfined and unfiltered wines, which offer a purer expression of fruit and an unadulterated reflection of terroir. Kermit’s conviction has been so strong over the years that he has persuaded even the most hard-headed winemakers to test his theories.

The Kermit Lynch blended Monferrato Rosso cuvée began in a simple trattoria. Dixon Brooke (Kermit’s right-hand man) and Kermit were on their way to Alba when they stopped for lunch. They were served a pitcher of Arneis that pleasantly surprised them and got the address of the producer. When they visited, they tasted several cuvées of Monferrato Rosso before blending and creating this one.

This wine has a smooth earthiness and genuine regional typicity, but also is versatile in pairing with a wide variety of dishes. Grown in sand and limestone soil, the 2010 blend is composed of 55% Barbera, 20% Bonarda, 15% Freisa, and 10% Dolcetto. Kermit says it reminds him of the Piedmontese wines of old.

If these wines pique your interest, click here to sign up for our club at the $25, $50, or $100 level and we'll get you started.