The Sarah Jane English Newsletter: 3rd Edition
wine.gif (1421 bytes) BOLLA AMARONE: Italy has 20 major wine producing regions, Veneto being the largest with 13 DOC zones--Valpolicella is one. Its hillside vineyards surround Verona and make the one-of-a-kind Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone, commonly known as Amarone, (am-a-rhone-nee).

The Bolla family initially made Amarone for its own consumption. Then in 1953, they were the first to label and market it in Italy and, shortly thereafter, in America. While Bolla wines (Soave, Bardolino, Valpolicello, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and others) were introduced to America fifty years ago, Amarone came in 1957. Conditions must be perfect to grow the wine.

Bolla Amarone symbolizes Bolla’s best and the superb ’90 vintage shows that quality. Only the upper cluster portions of native grapes (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara) are used for Amarone.

Hand selected grapes dry naturally on straw mats for up to 90 days after harvest to concentrate their flavors and sugars. After gentle pressing in January, the wine is slowly fermented and then aged in oak for several years—four years for the 1990 Bolla Amarone (still only $20). This unique process yields a wine prized for its rich texture, port-like intense flavors and superb balance.

OTHER TASTY ITALIAN WINES. Recently tasted refreshing whites: CAMPANILE Pinot Grigio, crisp like Granny Smith apples $11; FONTANA CANDIDA Pinot Grigio, light/ fresh $6; PIGHIN Collio Pinot Grigio, richer/fuller $18; BOLLINI Pinot Grigio, a meld of nice flavors $9; ANSELMI San Vincenzo Soave, floral/sweet $10 and Capitel Croce Soave, dryer/subtle $15; CERETTO Blangé Arneis, perfumy/sweet $15, and SPALLETTI Vernaccia, chamomile tea, $10.

Chianti offers many pleasant, lighter-style wines. The BROLIO Classico $14 is consistently good with ripe and rich fruit flavors. For those favoring leather, nutmeg and tea styles, there’s the SPALLETTI Chianti $8. For complexity incorporating some of both styles try MONSANTO "Il Poggio" $22, CASTELLO di VOLPAIA $18, and LE VOLTE $14 (sangiovese and cabernet blend).

Some Italians produce French varietals: NOZZOLE Il Pareto Cabernet Sauvignon, beautifully structured and delicious, $45 and Le BRUNICHE Chardonnay $11; FONTANA CANDIDA Merlot, $8; TORRESELLA Merlot, $9; LA BERNARDINA Rosso Del Piemonte Syrah, $26 and Chardonnay, $24; LE VOLTE (blend of cabernet Sauvignon and sangiovese) $14.

Some Americans produce Italian varietals: MARTIN BROS. Nebbiolo, $11, Nebbiolo Vecchio, $20, and Il Palio Sangiovese, $20; MONTEVINA Barbera, $9; EBERLE Barbera $18; LA FAMIGLIA di ROBERT MONDAVI Barbera $18, Sangiovese $22, Tocai Friulano (fresh dry spicy white) $18, Rosato $12; ROBERT PEPI Sangiovese Two Heart Canopy, $16; SHAFER Vineyards Firebreak (complex/medley of rich fruits), $25; ATLAS PEAK Sangiovese, $22; VENEZIA Sangiovese Eagle Point Vineyard Mendocino and Sangiovese Reserve Alegra Vineyard Russian River (both have many gold medals), $24; CALLAWAY Dolcetto $13. This selection of reds shows the strength and fullness of wines like the sangiovese; the more approachable barbera; the pinot noir resemblance of nebbiolo; the lighter, refreshing dolcetto; and quaffabale rosés like the La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi Rosato, a dry refosca rosé.

Sangiovese is a recent addition to American viticulture. While the grape is Italy’s leading varietal, it has little history in California. An Amador County research station has studied the grape and Montevina, Sebastiani and Atlas Peak wineries have worked with it. The Seghesios have nurtured a small patch since pre-Prohibition days. Most recently is the arrival Antinori-Bollinger-Whitbread consortium interest in the mid-1980s and the wines of Atlas Peak. SHAFER Vineyards Firebreak, $25, is 87% sangiovese and 13% cabernet sauvignon is a stunning wine, beautifully balanced and addictively delicious.

MARTIN BROS. Winery in Paso Robles specializes in Italian varietals: sangiovese, pinot grigio, three releases of nebbiolo,a malvasia bianca and a muscat canelli. They have 12 acres of sangiovese in Paso Robles and buy some grapes from Carrari Vineyards in Santa Barbara.

LA FAMIGLIA di ROBERT MONDAVI wines were introduced in June 1995. Extremely limited quantities of the handsome wines are represented by four varietals from ’93 (barbera, sangiovese, malvasia bianca and tocai friulano) and from ’96 Rosato (dry refosco rosé) and Moscato Bianco, $12 (dominantly muscat). The sangiovese vineyards are in Oakville and Rutherford Districts and 15% from Santa Clara County. The other varietals grow in various locations of Sonoma, Monterey, El Dorado counties and California.

To impress your best Italian wine friends, serve the ultra premiums: ORNELLAIA $50; MICHELE CHIARLO Rabaja Barbaresco $57, Countacc $60 and Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido $70. I recently tasted the current vintages and found the wines truly impressive. They are noteworthy. Look for current releases. Prices vary from store to store.

CELEBRATING 25 WINE-MAKING YEARS, eight vintners held a special panel tasting featuring their signature wines: BURGRESS CELLARS Cabernet Sauvigon, CARNEROS CREEK Pinot Noir, CHATEAU MONTELENA Cabernet Sauvignon, CLOS DU VAL Zinfandel, DIAMOND CREEK Cabernet Sauvignon, DRY CREEK VINEYARD Fumé Blanc, SILVER OAK WINE CELLARS Cabernet Sauvignon and STAG’S LEAP WINE CELLARS Cabernet Sauvignon. Try these wines and learn why they’re being celebrated! Look for current releases.

RECENTLY TASTED and delicious
(Prices vary from store to store)

’96 HANNA Sauvignon Blanc, ’93 Mt. VEEDER Cabernet Sauvignon, ’94 EDMEADS Chardonnay, ’95 BYRON Pinot Blanc, ’95 KENDALL-JACKSON Grand Reserve Viognier, ’95 CALLAWAY Viognier, ’95 MONTHAVEN Viognier, ’94 J. LOHR Syrah, ’93 ZACA MESA Syrah, ’93 Peter Mondavi Family CHARLES KRUG Generations, ’92 CAFARO Merlot—superb!

GUENOC produces a number of wines well. I recently tasted most of them and was pleased with the quality: Sauvignon blanc (light/fresh/sweet grapefruit); Meritagae White (perfumy oak/elegant); Reserve Chardonnay, both filtered and unfiltered had lovely fragrances, pear and ripe fruit, balanced with the unfiltered bolder; Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County (briary/ plumy with nice structure); Petit Verdot (vinous/earthy/perfumy); Meritage Red Lake County (toast, smoky, nice tannic structure, peppery); Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer (luscious nose, resolved tannins, condensed fruit, classic structure); Langtry Meritage Red (perfumy oak, supple, rich, ripe fruit).

 

travel.gif (1493 bytes) HOW about AUTUMN in NEW YORK?

Stay at the Westbury Hotel, built by an American polo player who named the hotel after his favorite polo field. New owners renovated the 1920s building to give a comfortably refined ambiance. I especially appreciated the handsome writing desk, sofa for reading comfort in the guest terry-cloth robe, the bathroom linens--by Lissadell of 100% Irish cotton, a combination of just-right weight, texture and size. I’ve never cared for velour, doesn’t absorb water. Westbury’s convenient location is 69th at Madison (212/535-2000). Ask the concierge for WHERE Magazine and a city map.

For business travelers this hotel is especially considerate. My suite had four telephones, two facsimile machines, paper pads and pens on every table and two complete bathrooms, one adjacent to the bedroom and the other in the living room. There was ample closet space for clothes and plenty of bathroom shelves and drawers for various toiletries. Double French doors close the living room off from the bedroom. And enjoy The Polo Restaurant, ideal for conference luncheons and you can take the elevator rather than a taxi.

New York City has cleaned up some of its unpleasantness. Last year (I go to attend the James Beard Gala) panhandlers stopped me on three consecutive corners and, when refused, cursed right in my face. This year they were gone, and the sleaze has diminished along other routes where it was previously rampant. I felt safer than I had in years.

For the best fresh seafood, dine at LE BERNARDIN (155 W. 51st St. between 6th and 7th aves., ph. 489-1515). Chef Eric Ripert cooks as handsomely as he looks. The $42 prixe fixe luncheon and $68 prixe fixe dinner menus offer ample selections. My five-course dinner: Herbed Crab Meat in Saffron Ravioli and a Shellfish Tarragon Reduction; Fricassée of Mussels, Clams, and Oysters in their Broth, with Sweet Garlic and Tomato Butter; Garlic and Parsley Saute Calamari, Sweet Confit Early Pimentos, Spicy Pimento Oil; Paupiette of Black Bass and Cabbage, Julienne of Celery, Carrots and Leeks, Thin Melting Slice of Foie Gras and Truffles, Purple-Mustard Shallot Sauce; Striped Bass in a Marinière of Baby Cockles, La Reine Potatoes and Leeks, Splash of Lime and Red Curry Oil—and, several desserts: Chocolate Millefeuille with Chocolate Mousse and Carmelized Meringue, wrapped in a Soft Chocolate Purse, Vanilla Sauce; Mont Blanc: Dome of Crisp Meringue, Bitter Chocolate Sorbet, Candied Chestnut and Rum "Vermicelli," Whipped Cream; Warm Fresh Black Current Clafoutis, Crème Fraiche Sorbet, Black Currant Sauce. I enjoyed a delicious Champagne Veuve Clicquot with everything. I shall return!

Another good place is PICHOLINE (35 W. 64th St. between Broadway and Central Park West, ph. 724-8585, cost @ $40). Chef Terrence Brennon offers daily selections. I dined on Tuesday so I had the chicken, crispy yet moist and prepared under a brick. I didn’t watch so I can’t describe how its done—but it works beautifully. Other seasonal specialties are soft-shell crabs, sweet bay scallops, roast baby lamb, and a wild mushroom and duck risotto. The most unique feature concerns cheese. Picholine has a resident cheese expert, Maîte de Fromage Max McCalman, and the only cheese cave in America. There are more than 50 artisan cheeses and other, more familiar selections. Ask Max to make a nice array to compliment your wine(s)--Mayacamas Chardonnay, St. Francis Merlot and Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon were delicious with everything.