I have had the pleasure of working closely with the man known as The Wine Philosopher, Steve Carrizzo. An active yogi, wine aficionado, and all around great guy, Steve brings a depth of spirituality and love of history that is rarely found in conversations about wine. I was lucky enough to grab a moment of his time for my questions. Please enjoy his answers – I surely did!
What’s your wine story?
I have been enjoying and collecting wine for over 35 years. My career in the wine industry developed out of my love of wine and its history, culture and relationship to the earth. Having been fortunate enough to visit and do business with wineries in France, Italy, California, New York State, Oregon and even Greece, has deepened my understanding of wine and the people who make it.
My work in the wine trade encompasses experience at many levels: retail, wholesale, winery, and the importing segments of the business. I also provide consulting services to restaurants, organize wine and food pairing dinners, teach classes and lead tastings for retailers, charitable organizations and private parties.
Another personal quest of mine has always been to understand the meaning of life, or the lack of meaning in life. This quest has lead to the study of western and eastern philosophy, the practice of Yoga, and lots of soul searching, so friends and family started to call me The Wine Philosopher.
Favorite wine fact?
Besides changing an ordinary meal into a special event it stimulates good conversation and philosophical thought, just ask the Greek philosophers: “In Vino Veritas”.
Almost all vineyards are located in beautiful places and there is so much good wine out there that it is hard to pick just one but if someone held a gun to my head I would have to say Burgundy, not so much for breathtaking vistas because other regions are more spectacular, but because there is an underlining spiritual vibe in Burgundy that I feel is still lingering from when the Monks tended to the vines and made the wine. They believed that the attributes of a wine from a certain vineyard was a message from God and God’s messages were revealed through the terroir of each vineyard. This is why they used one grape (Pinot Noir for red and Chardonnay for white) instead of a blend because they felt a blend would muddle the message while a single grape especially Pinot Noir or Chardonnay would keep the message pure.
Favorite food/wine pairing?
There are so many good parings out there but one of classics comes to mind first and that is Chablis with oysters on the half shell.
Next wine trip you’d like to take?
Looks like my next trip will be to Burgundy to source more wines for our Cellarage Portfolio.
What wines would you serve at a party?
That depends on the people at the party, but in general it is good to have a well priced sparkling wine like a Prosecco from Italy or a Cava from Spain. For still wines I would choose a California Cab or Merlot because they are softer than many European reds and work better for sipping as opposed to a wine for a sit down dinner. As far a white wine I would go with a nice Pinot Grigio or a Macon instead of an oaked Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Best wine out there for someone on a budget?
Right now some of the best buys for quality wine at reasonable prices are coming from Southern Italy, Portugal, Chile, the Cote du Rhone and the Languedoc region in the South of France.
– Montalcino has 3,000 acres of vineyards (small compared to Chianti’s 41,000 acres)
Montalcino is a small medieval village located in central Italy. It flew under the radar for many years (the first paved road to the town was completed in 1960!) even though it has been producing some of the most delicious wines for over a century. Montalcino is nestled into the rocky hillside and is located about an hour’s drive south of Chianti. With warm temperatures and vines well above sea level, Montalcino provides an excellent environment to grow the sangiovese grapes needed for their delectable big bodied brunello wines.
“Brunello” is dialect for “the nice dark one”, which makes sense when you see the deep red color and taste the intense notes of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry fruit, chocolate, violet, and leather. Brunellos have longevity unlike other neighboring wines and tend to hold their flavor, if not improve upon it, with time. We have the brunello wines we know and love now thanks to Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. In the 1870s, Biondi-Santi separated the brunello clone from the other sangiovese and planted it in his estate vineyards. He was somewhat of a visionary in his time as the popular wines of the region were sweet whites and lighter chiantis and his brunellos were rich and intense. He let the juice of the grapes sit on the skins to extract every bit of color and flavor it could. Then he aged the wines for years before releasing them.
Grazie di tutto, Ferruccio!
I spent the fall of 2014 working as the farm hand on the oldest vineyard in Carlton, Oregon. From checking Brix levels with a refractometer, harvesting and crushing buckets filled with grapes, to daily punch downs of fermenting grape caps, my days were filled with the delicious smell of Pinot Noir. There’s something about an Oregon Pinot Noir that makes my mouth water: silky and supple with high acidity, rustic and earthy to taste with blue and red fruits, leather, mushrooms, and chocolate.
By state law, Oregon pinots have to contain 90% of the grape variety named on the label. The hot days and cool nights make the Willamette Valley an ideal location for Pinot Noir. 2014 had an exceptionally long and dry growing season. The clusters of juicy grapes were ready in late September and were thankfully harvested before the rains which would have diluted them.
The wines I worked on are barely in the bottle, if not spending more time in the barrel, but here are some of our Oregon pinots that I’ve tasted and whole-heartedly approve of!
A great food and wine match up and the Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses is open for business and drinking perfectly right now!
Bernard Magrez, the owner of Pape Clement collects these ancient trees and carefully imports them in from all over the world. Quite amazing really.
On the Eve of Tax Day, I got out and tasted a range of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Oregon. Mostly 2011 and 2012 vintages. 2011 is heralded as a great vintage and a long-ager while 2012 was trickier with moisture to deal with at harvest. There was lots of acid back bone prevalent in many of the reds and whites with some producers also producing more fruit forward wines with lower acidity, albeit mostly successfully for those that prefer that style on the palate.
2011 Soter Mineral Springs Ranch White Label. Top flight Oregon Pinot Noir. Sure to please. Excellent purity of fruit approachable now but can be laid down
2012 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir. Focused black fruit, great mid palate with long finish. A first rate wine perhaps to drink before the Mineral Springs Ranch.
2012 North Valley Reserve Chardonnay. Snappy acid and nuanced fruit deliver a compelling one-two punch. One of the best chardonnays I have had from Oregon, only 6% new oak.
2012 Abbott Claim Pinot Noir. Excellent color, complex fruit and great balance with a lingering finish.
2011 J. K. Carriere Pinot Noir Antoinette. Lovely wine with mouth filling fruit, acid backbone and a long finish. Love the enthusiasm of winemaker, Jim Prosser.
2012 Lemelson Vineyards Pinot Noir Jerome Reserve. Snappy, focused Pinot with complex fruit and pleasing tannins
On Tuesday, I attended the Frederick Wildman & Sons tasting for their 2013 Burgundy portfolio. Overall, the wines showed a truly approachable quality and delightfully refreshing vibrancy. There were more reds than whites to taste at this particular event, and my favorites were the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin, along with the beautiful Morey-St. Denis wines of Lignier-Michelot.
2013 was yet another difficult vintage for Burgundy, with challenges arising from the volume and frequency of rainfall in the Côte de Nuits, and hail in the Côte de Beaune. For the Côte Chalonnaise, 2013 was actually a really good vintage and they did not face the same hardships as their neighbors to the north, so keep your eyes peeled for the under-the-radar appellations: Rully, Mercurey and Givry! These will surely offer some value in a vintage where prices are high.
In 2013, between April and August, some areas of the Côte d’Or had nearly 50% more rainfall than the average for that time period. That’s a lot of rain! And it rained frequently too. Despite the difficulties that were faced, vignerons were mostly successful in managing and preventing disease, and the results of the vintage are some wonderful Burgundies. In his article, “The Côte de Nuits – The 2013 and 2012 Vintages”, Allen Meadows’ quotes one of his favorite Burgundian sayings to describe the 2013 vintage, which translates to “the first glass calls for the second.” This is a great saying, and I have to say that these words rang true with the majority of the wines I tasted on Tuesday…I would have loved to drink a full glass, and a second glass, of many of them!
The highlights for me were the wines of Domaine Burguet (Gevrey), Domaine Lignier-Michelot (Morey-St. Denis), Domaine Humbert Freres (Gevrey) and Domaine Sylvain Cathiard (Vosne-Romanée), with the latter being far too pricey for my pocket book. I loved the Domaine Burguet Gevrey-Chambertins, including ‘Symphonie’, ‘Mes Favorites’, ‘Les Champeaux’ 1er Cru and ‘Les Echezeaux’. The Bourgogne Rouge of Domaine Burguet’s was my favorite of this category at the tasting. Lignier-Michelot’s Borgogne Rouge is also great.
I loved the Lignier-Michelot Morey-St. Denis Vieilles Vignes, which had intriguing sauvage notes, with dark berry fruit and earthy minerality that really sang. The Morey-St. Denis ‘Aux Charmes’ 1er Cru and ‘Faconnieres’ 1er Cru were both distinctive and delightful; the former showing earthy and floral notes of roses, with intensity and minerality through the finish, while the latter was also vibrant with pronounced red fruit and deep minerality. Of course, the Lignier-Michelot Clos de la Roche Grand Cru was stunning with singing flavors of dark berries and cassis.
Domaine Humbert Freres’ line-up was wonderful, from Fixin to Charmes Chambertin, these wines were a pleasure to taste. Don’t miss the Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Petite Chapelle’ 1er Cru and the Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Poissenot’ 1er Cru. Of the two, I have to say that Petite Chapelle was my favorite with its floral aromas, dark fruit, elegance, silky texture and shining minerality.
I have not mentioned the white Burgundies yet because I didn’t have a chance to focus on them due to time constraints, but I did taste through all of Olivier Leflaive’s wines, and they were excellent.
This was my first taste of the 2013 Burgundy vintage and I’m looking forward to tasting more of these wines! We at The Wine Cellarage are starting to work on our offerings and you will see more on the 2013s as we make progress.
A Perfect White Wine to Chase Away Your Winter Blues…
Château de Lancyre is nestled in the heart of the picturesque Pic Saint Loup region of Southern France’s Languedoc appellation. The estate itself dates back to the 12th century and is a traditional French hamlet that sits atop the hill of Lancyre. Etienne Durand inherited the estate in 1870, making vine growing his livelihood, an initiative that was soon destroyed by phylloxera. This was followed by a renaissance, during which all of the vines were grafted onto American rootstock, and the estate grew throughout the 20th century. The estate has continued to flourish and is now over 75 hectares, with Bernard Durand and winemaker Régis Valentin at the helm.
Pic Saint Loup is located in the northern part of the Languedoc appellation, where the vines relish a cooler climate, contributing to the distinct character of the special wines produced there. Enjoying its close proximity to the Mediterranean, the Pic is influenced by both the Cevennes Mountains and the warm winds of the nearby sea. The vineyard of Lancyre is located in a valley with north-east orientation and planted in limestone-rich soils. The vineyard is surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, including strawberries, thyme, rosemary, bay and juniper, which add to the charm and beauty of Lancyre. The sense of place was instantly evident after I savored my first sip of the 2012 Domaine de Lancyre Roussanne…the elegance and minerality really stand out.
My tasting note: Delicate aromas of peach, orange zest, rose and citrus blossom greet the nose, topped with a drizzle of honey. On the palate, the wine is fresh with delightful stone fruit flavors, racy energy and a satisfying roundness to the mid-palate. The wine finishes long with a vivid torrent of minerality.
This little gem has a lot to offer and I can see pairing it with seafood, shellfish, and especially a meaty white fish like halibut. A refreshing white wine like this is always perfect with a range of salads and appetizers. Having sampled this Roussanne in the middle of February, it is a welcomed reminder of spring and summer! I’ll happily enjoy the 2012 Domaine de Lancyre Roussanne now, and can’t wait to uncork it again once the warmer temperatures are here to stay. You can purchase the 2012 Domaine de Lancyre Roussanne for $21 per bottle ($252 per case) at our online wine shop.
A fun closing note… Part of the larger regional appellation of the Languedoc, Pic Saint Loup has aspirations to become its own designated AOC (Appellation Contrôlée). I’m sure that the only thing stopping it at this point is red tape because the quality of the wines produced from this area is clear.
It’s that time of year again and Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. Across the nation, those in charge of preparing the big feast have already begun planning their menus. The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it is a celebration of food and family, and what would a celebration be without a steady flow of wine?
Finding the perfect wine pairings for Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenge because there are so many choices out there. The variety on the Thanksgiving table can make choosing the right wines seem daunting, but the assortment of flavors is actually an advantage when it comes to selecting the wines. The key is to select versatile wines that harmonize with the abundant, flavorful side dishes.
Here are our suggestions for 5 great Thanksgiving wine pairings…
The wine that you choose for appetizers on Thanksgiving should have some bubbles! Champagne or sparkling wine makes an excellent pairing for hors d’oeuvres ranging from charcuterie and cheese plates, to soups and salads. Cheese almost always makes its way into the appetizers for a large party and the refreshing acidity and bubbles in sparkling wine cut through the richness of any assortment of cheeses, from Brie to Stilton. We’ve selected our exclusive Champagnes from Robert Desbrosse to pair with Thanksgiving. In fact, we will be serving these to our family and friends straight through to New Year’s!
NV Robert Desbrosse Champagne Brut Rosé ($37 Per Bottle/ $444.00 Per 12-Bottle Case)
60% Pinot Noir & 40% Pinot Meunier
“…There is nothing shy about this Desbrosse Brut Rose, rich with a nose of bing cherries, strawberries and a flavor profile of white raspberries, hints of pink grapefruit, just a touch of sea salt and cherries again-Lovely!” –Harriet Hendler, The Wine Cellarage
2007 Robert Desbrosse Champagne Millesime Brut ($40 Per Bottle/ $480.00 Per 12-Bottle Case)
60% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay & 20% Pinot Meunier
“Feminine and crisp, almost racy while still being light on its feet with just the hint of pepper, fresh ginger and many, many delicate tiny bubbles. Your new go to Champagne that is perfect for cocktail parties, to serve with appetizers, cheering on your favorite football team with a pound or two of Kettle corn.” –Harriet Hendler, The Wine Cellarage
NV Robert Desbrosse Champagne Cuvee Prestige Brut ($45 Per Bottle/ $540.00 Per 12-Bottle Case)
“The richest of the three cuvees, with a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir that gives the Cuvee Prestige a softly honeyed richness with just the slightest hint of creaminess while maintaining a balanced energy throughout the long and full bodied finish. Your new Go-To ‘Special Occasion’ Champagne!” –Harriet Hendler, The Wine Cellarage
I’ve always thought it was nice to feature a great domestic wine at Thanksgiving. Red Zinfandel is the first wine that comes to mind, especially since it has its own immigration story. When we talk about Zinfandel, we are talking robust, yet elegant red wine with flavors of dark cherries, currants and spice. Zinfandels pair well with a variety of foods and can be likened to the gravy for your Thanksgiving bird. The lush fruit character and versatility of Zinfandel makes the varietal a pleasing pairing for your turkey along with all the trimmings. This year, we’ve selected two California Zinfandels with distinctive flavor profiles that will make your feast sing…
2012 Joel Gott Zinfandel ($15 Per Bottle)
Easy drinking for the holiday season! The 2012 Zinfandel has aromas of oven roasted plum and blackberry jam with sweet spice notes. On the palate, the wine offers bright red fruit flavors complemented by a soft, round mouth feel and a long finish.
2011 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($32 Per Bottle)
Delicious aromas of briar patch berries are accented by hints of sweet spice and black pepper. On the palate, the wine is rich and full-bodied, yet maintains elegance and finesse.
3. Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir, with its cherry fruit flavors and characteristic earthy quality, is a delightful Thanksgiving wine. Harvest season ingredients such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, roasted root vegetables and cranberries are all complimented by Pinot Noir. You can’t go wrong with a fruit-forward domestic Pinot from the West Coast, especially one from California. French Pinots from Burgundy are often more elegant and will highlight the nuances of root vegetable side dishes. Both of the Pinots below will work wonderfully on Thanksgiving …
2009 Wedell Pinot Noir ‘Wavertree’ San Luis Obispo ($15 Per Bottle)
“The explosive bouquet of strawberry, raspberry and black cherry only a hint at what a special wine the 2009 Wavertree San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir is…it is readily enjoyable now and will mature beautifully for years to come.” –The Winery
2012 WHOA Farm Pinot Noir ‘Crane Vineyard’ Sonoma Coast ($55 Per Bottle)
Aromas of sweet black cherry fruit and spices greet the nose. On the palate, the wine has generous fruit and firm structure. The wine is silky on the mid-palate and harmonious through the finish. The proceeds of this wonderful Pinot from the Sonoma Coast will be used to support the charitable works of non-profit Work Horse Organic Agriculture (WHOA) Farm. WHOA produces 50,000 pounds of organic food each year and insures that this fresh produce reaches those most in need in the San Francisco area. Sip delicious wine while giving back this holiday season!
Aromatic white wines, such as Riesling, work especially well with Thanksgiving. Since Riesling can be made in a variety of styles, from bone dry to sweet, it is a brilliant choice for a range of foods and flavor profiles. A Riesling with refreshing acidity and a hint of sweetness, combined with exotic aromatics, is going to knock everyone’s socks off on Thanksgiving Day! The sweet elements of the meal (think sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce) will be complemented by the sweetness of the wine, while the naturally high acidity will refresh everyone’s palate as they enjoy the rich feast.
2013 Charles Smith Wines ‘Kung Fu Girl’ Riesling ($15 Per Bottle)
Enticing aromas of white peach, apricot and lime leaf waft from the glass. On the palate, there are complex flavors of Fuji apple, shiro plum and refreshing minerality. The wine has a very long, cool finish.
2008 Karlsmuhle Lorenzhofer Riesling Spatlese Trocken ($25 Per Bottle)
“I can think of no Mosel producer who’s better at lifting Mosel material to a higher level of ripe attributes, including a richer mouthfeel. Outstanding. The extraordinary house of Karlsmühle creates Mosel wines with uncommon extract and concentration. This one, a light yellow-straw to the eye, features an amazingly succulent nose of ripe fruit, an almost buttery tenderness on the palate…This is what German wine is all about.” –David Rosengarten
Rosé is one of my favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner. Not only is the wine’s color cheery and festive, the characteristic red berry flavors make it the ideal choice for Thanksgiving. Incredibly food friendly, Rosé combines the brisk acidity and refreshing quality of a white wine with the body and structure of a red wine, making it compatible with a range of dishes. Julia Child hit the mark when she said “Rosés can be served with anything.”
2013 Domaine Saint Aix Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé ($16 Per Bottle)
This refreshing rosé is a blend of four Southern Rhone grape varietals: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah & Counoise. On the nose, aromas of strawberries, cherries and grapefruit abound. The palate is soft and elegant with a structure that is perfect for white meat, such as turkey! The fresh quality of this wine will stimulate everyone’s appetite and keep conversations lively.
2013 Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence Rosé ($20 Per Bottle)
A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle. Miraval’s 2013 release kept us cool all summer, but should be recognized as more than just a summer wine. Crafted by the Perrin Family (of Chateau Beaucastel), in partnership with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, this is a serious wine with great substance. Serving Brangelina wine on Thanksgiving is sure to please the most discerning palates while providing an interesting conversation starter. To borrow the words of wine reviewer Josh Raynolds (for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar), “This suave wine has the power to work with rich foods and the energy to give pleasure by itself.” You can enjoy the 2013 Chateau Miraval from the first course to the last!
Let’s Get Together: Foolproof Wine and Food Pairing
Wine is made for food! Wine makes every dining experience more wonderful and memorable. The right sip from a great bottle can elevate a good meal to a great one in a single bite. It’s simple if you follow a few guidelines.
1. For lighter reds, i.e. Pinot Noir, Primitivo, or Gamay, look toward a sumptuous lobster entrée, roast chicken, or earthy vegetable dish with mushrooms and root vegetables. Charcuterie plates also pair well, as do big, crusty breads with semisoft cheeses.
2. Medium reds, i.e. Tempranillo, Merlot, or Grenache, add depth to beef and chicken dishes, while also befriending both soft and hard cheeses as well as charcuterie.
3. Big red wines, i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah, go best with the big flavors in beef entrees. Served with bold cheeses, and often a great partner with cured meats, these heavy hitters can stand up to the strongest flavors without missing a beat.
4. Creamy, rich white wines, i.e. Chardonnay, Marsanne, and Viognier, are perfect pairs with fish, shellfish, chicken, and rice dishes, as well as soft cheeses.
5. Dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are fabulous for accenting salads with creamy dressings as well as balsamic based drizzles. They are also solid wine choices for seafood, shellfish, and roasted fall vegetables.
6. Sweet white wines, including Sauternes from France, Riesling from the Mosel region in Germany and Moscato from Northern Italy, are not simply for the dessert course. These versatile wines dance well on the palate with both soft and hard cheeses, and work wonderfully with spicy foods, such as Thai or Indian cuisine.
7. Sparkling wines, from ever-elegant Champagnes, to lively Cavas, from pretty Proseccos, to delightful Asti Spumantes; sparkling wines really tend to steal the show just by virtue of their crown of bubbles, but incredibly versatile when it comes to food pairing. Bubbly can be great with anything from a simple cheese plate, to an elegant sushi dinner. Certain vintage Champagnes even have enough body and power to stand up to red meat entrees! Give it a try the next time you are out at your favorite steakhouse.
8. Dessert wines and ice wines made from late harvest grapes, as well as Port and Sherry, are best as a last course complement. Paired either with a sweet treat, or with a more traditional cheese and cured meat tray, these wines will seal the meal with a sweet sip and a pleasant memory.
9. Try choosing your wine first, and then plan the menu around it. If you are familiar with the wine, you’ll be much more comfortable selecting dishes that complement its best features.
10. Pair using flavor profiles. Wines with a big, bold palate will bowl over the flavors of a delicate menu. Similarly, wines with a light profile will disappear next to a menu full of rich flavors. For a truly harmonious dining experience, match the richness (strength and body) of the wine with the richness of the menu. Full bodied wines make the best companions for full-flavored dishes. Light bodied wines make the perfect pairing for lighter fare.
To find your favorites and to better learn about your own tastes, try experimenting with different wine and food pairings! Experimentation is the best way to discover new and exciting wine and food combos. Cheers & enjoy the journey!