Sunday, February 13, 2011

Corvina: The Gentleman of Verona

I've always had a special fondness for the Corvina grape.

A gift of a Bolla three-pack was what drove me to buy my first wine book, and two of the three Veronese wines in the trio were, in theory, made in part with Corvina - Bardolino and Valpolicella. In the late 70s, I fell in love with Amarone about the time I was discovering late-harvest Zins from Amador County.

More locally, I have been drinking wines from the past 10 years from my neighborhood Pennsylvania winery, Va La Vineyards, that does an excellent job of growing northern Italian grapes and making fine wines from them. For a time, the owner/winemaker, Anthony Vietri, made a solo Corvina - probably the first and only such wine in the U.S. - but more recently he has been blending Corvina and Nebbiolo to make what might be consider a local IGT. It is quite delicious.

Which brings me to two wine samples I received recently. I was quite excited that one of them was actually labeled "Corvina" - the just-launched 2005 Cesari "Jema" Corvina made from a single vineyard from San Pietro in the Valpolicella Classico region. It is a big and very serious wine, but still with a lot of fresh fruit going into its sixth year. There is a pleasant meaty flavor to it, with moderate tannins, good acidity and a creme fraiche undertaste. It developed well in the glass over an hour of drinking, but lost none of its freshness. It's a keeper and worth the $45 price tag.

The other wine is the 2006 Allegrini Amarone ($90). Allegrini is well-known for it's well-structured Amarones, and this one certainly keeps the faith. At first, the flavors of dark cherries are very sophisticated and smooth, but it gradually develops much-more-complex, earthy tastes with lots of tannins, exotic spices and a few bars of dark chocolate. It's very drinkable now, but will really blossom over the next two-to-five years and last much longer than that. Like most Amarones, it has some other grapes to go along with Corvina (80%), including Rondinella (15) and Oseleta (5).

Tasting these two wines at the same time made me reflect that, yes, life is good, as well as making a note to myself to check the air fare to Verona.

Until next time...
Roger Morris
QUICK HITS: It's nice to be writing again for Colman Andrews, my editor for years at Saveur, at My first post for them was last week on the "new" 155-year-old Taylor Fladgate "Scion" Port, which I also covered for Also check out this month's issue of Sommelier Journal for my seven-page article on the Alentejo region of Portugal.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Back Label: Each Day Is Valentine's Day

Fonseca Bin No. 27: It's the chocolate, cupid!

Few wines go as well with chocolate as Fonseca Bin No. 27, especially if the chocolate comes from New York City's Jacques Torres ( and if Torres has sweetened his choc pot with a little of the Bin. I've never been a great believer of cooking with the same wine that is being served with the meal - I don't think so! - as that means you're either wasting classic wine in a reduction sauce or else you're drinking crappy wine. An exception is chocolate wine truffles, and many wineries now sell in their tasting rooms truffles made from their primo reds.

What works so well with Bin No. 27 (about$20) is that is tastes a bit like a chocolate truffle - a dollop of red and black berry essence wrapped in a cocoa powder-like coating. Take a bite of a chewy Torres sweetie and a sip of Fonseca together, and it's difficult to see where the taste of one leaves off and the other begins.

Wild Oak Shows Its Staying Power

Most California Chardonnay have lousy longevity - no Viagra is those drip systems - but I pulled this bottle of 2005 St. Francis Wild Oak Sonoma County Chardonnay out of my cellar, where it had been put away by mistake, and I was pleased with how much better it is that when I first tasted it. It's almost six years old now, and the bottle age has developed and made richer its tropical fruits, and those stray oxygen molecules have baked a nice little loaf of brioche flavors.

It makes me want to go back underground and see what else I might have mislaid.

King George's Pinot Noir: Speech! Speech!

OK, so George Bursick isn't a king, though he wouldn't mind being the king of California Pinot Noir. It's been interesting to see the improvement of J Vineyards' Pinots since Bursick has taken over, and the 2008 J Russian River Pinot Noir ($35) is a case in point. It's J's basic Pinot, and it's particularly appealing because it's one of those wines that excite the gastric juices and makes the brain in the stomach start checking the refrigerator.

It also tastes good - tight black cherry flavors, a fair amount of minerality, touches of cola, anda dusting of dried herbs. In fact, it speaks for itself.

Until next time....

Roger Morris

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