Saltwater Farm Cabernet Franc Merlot 2010




I like Cabernet Franc.  Be it the taste, color, or aroma, I love it all.  For those who don’t know this wine let me encourage you to try it.


Cabernet Franc is the daddy of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s one of the major varieties of Bordeaux wines and is especially used by itself in wines from Chinon in the Loire.  It grows particularly well here in New England, as our climate and terroir are very close to that of Bordeaux, and is the main wine used in Upstate New York and Canada in making Ice Wine.


Lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon in color and body, though I don’t think many of us will miss the body, the Franc’s color is a paler red.  On the nose you’ll get a peppery perfume, and depending on where you bottle is from, tobacco and raspberry as well.  The taste is very fruit-forward, which is one of the many reasons I like this wine so much.  You’ll get the same from Cabernet Sauvignon but with a mezzo forte signature vs a more finessed vibrato from Cabernet Franc.


Cardinal Richelieu is credited for bring Cabernet Franc to the Loire Valley and putting its development into the hands of Abbot Brenton at the Abbey of Bourgueil.  The wine was known as “Bouchet” and is still called that in some places.  Later in the 19th century Cabernet Franc will be crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to make the King of Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon.


Saltwater Farms is located about 40 minutes from my home in the Historic town of Stonington, Connecticut.  The vineyard is set on 100 acres, 15 of which are planted with 6  varieties of  grapes that are right next to tidal marshes of Long Island Sound.  The property includes a private airport that was built  in the 1930’s and used during World War 2.  The winery itself is located in a restored hanger and is said to be a magnificent site to see.  Saltwater Farm’s mission statement says it all, “doing what we do best,” and it has produced a great wine from their own grapes grown on the property utilizing the owners’ knowledge of New England viniculture and French winemaking techniques paired with a modern design.


My bottle was a classic Bordeaux style blend of Cab Franc and Merlot grapes aged in French oak.  Pale red color gives way to a superb fragrance of pepper and raspberries.  The taste, as I mentioned earlier, is fruit-forward blackberries, just a great flavor.  Nice finish leaves you pleased you took the time to enjoy.


For you New York readers, the Finger Lakes have some great Cab Francs I would recommend Fox Run  Cabernet Franc Lemberger and I encourage you to try them.  France has some stunners and the price to go with it, but really, try this vinial you’ll be happy you did.  

Wine is the drink of the gods, milk the drink of babies, tea the drink of women, and water the drink of beasts.


Corte Gardoni Le Fontane Bardolino 2011



What does today have common with the third Thursday in November?


Trust me I will make the connection.


We are talking about a wine that I doubt many of you know; Bardolino.  Bardolino, is a fun red wine that comes from a chain of hills running along the east side of Lake Garda, in the Province of Verona, Italy.  The Grapes used to make Bardolino (Corvina, Veronese, Rondinella) are the same used to make Valpolicella, however the wines couldn’t be more different.  


Valpolicella is a full-bodied, fairly elegant wine, while Bardolino is much lighter in color and body, thus making it far more party-oriented.  The main reason is Bardolino relies far less on the Corvina, and instead places more emphasis on Rondinella which is far more neutral in flavor.


Our wine for this tasting is Corte Gardoni Le Fontane 2011 Bardolino.  It’s from the Piccoli family winery.  They have been making their own wines since 1980, but as a family they have a 400 year history in growing grapes.


The wine is a blend of 60% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, and 10% of a white wine, Bianca Di Custoza.  The color is a crisp clear red, with an intense but fleeting bouquet of flowers and red berries.  The Bardoline’s taste was like an overdue spring day, very light body, refreshing, with red cherries and strawberries.  No finish at all, when it’s gone it’s gone.  This is a drinking wine not a thinking wine; nothing serious here,  just a nice, easy quaffable wine.  Oh, and I recommend you serve it chilled.


So what other wine fits that description? BEAUJOLAIS!  Bingo, Bardolino is an Italian Beaujolais.  Though it’s not the same grape, you still get the same taste, aroma, and fun factor.  When is Beaujolais Nouveau?  Why, the third Thursday in November!  So all this wine needs is a marketing campaign, which is why I proclaim the third Thursday of May BARDOLINO GUSTARE!  To be fair, I could make it any other day for that matter.  Go get a bottle of Bardolino, and be happy.  I got mine at Center Street Wine and Spirits in Wallingford, CT.  Enjoy, taste, and savor the flavor of springtime.  Make it a party: wear a loud tie, or a vest, or a funny hat, have fun with it!

“Wine – it should be enjoyed for the benefits of the soul – and nothing more.” – Peter Fiduccia, Wine Lover

The Cabernet of the Ozarks


I’m a bit of an epileptic wine drinker. I enjoy uncovering, researching, and most of all, drinking, unconventional wine varietals. Once encountered and tasted, rarely do I return.
That being said I am making a bit of an exception this week because I really like this wine. Plus, I’ve encountered a new, very tasty version of the grape. First identified in 1770, Cynthiana (sin-thee-ah-nah) is the oldest native North American grape in commercial cultivation today. Many suggest that the grape is native to Arkansas, which is why Cynthiana is sometimes referred to as the Cabernet of the Ozarks. It is almost identical to the Norton grape, which has been commercially available since 1830 and, as you may remember, is refined and cultivated by Virginia physician, Dr. Daniel Norton.
I first discovered the Norton about a year ago and traveled to Virginia to taste it. In March, a family member from Tennessee told me about a signature wine they were making from the Cynthiana grape at Beachaven Vineyards. The wine was sold out everywhere, but they lovingly got me a bottle and drove it all the way to Connecticut for me to enjoy, so a big, heartfelt thank you to Lindsay and all the folks at Beachaven down in Clarksville, TN.
When it comes to the Cynthiana, I’m not sure if I should describe it as Norton revisited, Norton remixed, or just Norton continued, because I don’t want to shortchange the respect I have for this wine. My Norton was from Cooper Vineyards in Virginia, a 2010 reserve, and the Cynthiana a 2008 from Tennessee.
Both wines are unique, so to try and compare them to other wines does them a disservice. It’s hard to describe, and until you’ve tried them you’d be hard pressed to understand. Both taste very similar to Cabernet, but these dry reds are a little sweeter and spicier. The color is a rich red, with raisins and a hint of vanilla one the nose. I admit, I sniffed almost as much as I sipped. And let me tell you, the sipping was an experience in and of itself; a medium body with the flavor of cherries and berries. Both the Norton and the Cynthiana were nearly identical in taste, color, and aroma, and I am convinced the grapes have to be the same.
The one thing I remember most about drinking these wines was the exceptional stress relief they gave. I had to pay my taxes right around the time of this visit, and outside of work nothing stresses me out more than taxes. One sip of my Native varietal and the worries of the world were as far away as the vineyard where it was made.
When people think of wines from the United States their mind’s eye turns towards California, Washington, or Oregon. That’s okay, those states produce great wines, but to be honest I’m all jazzed up over the litany of other places making fantastic wines at super-affordable prices. And at the same time, they’re also resurrecting Native wines, which is nothing short of wonderful.
The Norton and Cynthiana grapes are just the first on what I hope will be a long journey of discovery for me. On that recent trip to Texas I heard of the Mustang grape, a varietal I am eager to try. There are also grapes native to the Hudson Valley that I want to sample: Baco Noir, Chambuucin, Chelois, and DeChaunac to name a few. There are new wineries being developed all over the country, and I look forward to trying them all.
I have this dream of going to Italy, buying a canary yellow Fiat 500, and driving vineyard to vineyard across the country. In my current state–sober–I know that isn’t going to happen, but the idea of taking my dark gray Murano to have a taste of something local is certainly a much more achievable way of making myself happy. As Omar Khayyam said, in a phrase that always makes me smile, “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and tho, is all I need.”

Saserello 2011


If you want to learn about Sicily, one of the best books you can read is “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The novel chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the “Risorgimento” or the Italian unification of 1815.  It also allows you to get a good idea how Sicilians think, and that is pretty awesome.
I know what you are thinking: Griffy what does the Risorgimento got to do with wine?  Well, when you look closely, everything has to do with wine, especially after you’ve had a few glasses.
This week’s wine is Mario Ercolino’s Sasserello 2011, which has been labeled a “super Sicilian”.  Now the best way to describe a super Sicilian is this: think “super Tuscan” and head south.  A super Tuscan is generally a wine made outside of the Chianti DOC, with Sangiovese as it’s base and blended with international varietals, say Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux blends.  Very tasty!
So now let’s head south about 1,100 miles to and visit with master wine maker Mario Ercolino and his Saserello.  The grapes come from two small estates–Cabernet and Merlot from Menfi–where the deep mineral-rich soils impart complexity to each varietal. The Syrah and Sangiovese from Sciacca, grown in two neighboring vineyards overlooking the sea, achieve excellent ripeness. Mario matures a little of each variety in small American oak barrels for six months, then sets to work blending the four, tasting and re-tasting until the wine is just right.  He has to do all that tasting and re-tasting because he has no recipe for the wine; it’s done when he says it’s done!  I can hear his Nana saying ” Mario, you don’t need no recipe, your Sicilian”!
Saserello is a wonderfully rich, complex, and elegant red with plenty of upfront fruit and a long, complex finish. It’s a great drinking red wine I got from the Wall Street Journal Wine club.
Now let me tell you what drove me nuts about this wine.  It’s called a Super Sicilian, and the grapes are from Sicily, but let me ask you a question: what are the indigenous red varieties of grapes from Sicily? If you answered Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio, Perricone, Nocera, you nailed it!  Let’s read what’s in Saserello: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese and 25% Syrah. Hello this is a southern fried Super Tuscan, not Sicilian!
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good wine, tasty as hell, but we’d be talking a whole different wine here if we dropped the Sangiovese and replaced with Nero D’Avola or Nerello Cappuccio or Nerello Mascalese.  And if Mario Ercoline is reading this, it would be really cool if you tried. He’s probably thinking, “God forbid that would be awful,” but at least it be Sicilian.
The big pull quote from the Leopard is, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” If Sciliy is to find it’s voice in its wines, they have to start speaking Sicilian!
I’m going to keep shopping and I’ll find a real Super Sicilian. When I do, we’ll reconvene, raise the “trinacria” and say wow now that’s Sicilian!