Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stage 18 Morbegno to San Pelligrino Terme

The action comes late in this 151 kilometer stage running from Morbegno to San Pelligrino Terme, and the Passo di Ganda is the only climb on the schedule. The Giro races over mostly flat roads for the first 100 kilometers and passes through Bergamo. In Bergamo, the riders climb into Bergamo Alta, which served as a finishing town last year. No stopping this time, the stage leaves the city, and begins a gradual, grinding climb up the valley to the Passo di Ganda.

And it was another day for the break. In a tense sprint finish, it was Eros Capecchi who was victorious  ahead of local rider Marco Pinotti and Kevin Seeldraeyers.  
 Pinotti led out the sprint, and with Seeldraeyers glued to the Italian’s wheel, Capecchi was in danger of being squeezed out. However, on the final left hand bend 200 metres from home, he nudged his way between Pinotti and Seeldraeyers. From there, it was a formality, and Capecchi careered past Pinotti to take the win.
Region: Lombardy
Wine: 09 Vercesi Del Castellazzo Oltrepò Pavese Pezzalunga $16.99

They say: 
Pezzalunga has been the name given to the hill located in front of Castellazzo, the Vercesi family's estate and former monastery, for generations. The perfectly positioned south east facing vineyards are planted using the guyot system, with 3600 vine stocks per hectare. The soil is clay/marly, not worked and covered by grass, with conditions that create a well balanced environment for the vines.
This wine is obtained from the most characteristic wines on the estate; Barbera 35%, Bonarda (Croatina) 35%, Uva Rara 15%, Pinto Nero 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%. Pezzalunga is bottled in the spring and stays in the cellar for some months before being released. This ensures the wine reaches a particularly fine level of quality. It is a full-bodied, flavorful wine, maintaining a delightful freshness. This wine is produced to be drunk young, but it can be aged for some years successfully, as time will exalt its better qualities.

I say: Wow. A red. And a really deep red (color) at that. Spicy nose. Red fruits but also nice acid on the finish. Pizza anyone?

And now a confession. . . This is actually my last wine of the Giro. The three remaining bottles will need to wait until after my trip to the Austrian Wine Summit. I'll be in Vienna, Carnuntum and Burgenland for the extended weekend. Thanks to the loaner ipad, I'll be sure to check in here or on twitter @educatedpalates.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giro Stage 17 Feltre-Tirano
 Another day, another mountain stage at this Giro d’Italia. This final week of racing is all about the climbing, and stage 17 sticks to the pattern. It’s a long stage running from 230 kilometers from Feltre to Tirano with two significant climbs and a descending finish. Sure enough, the stage was dominated by a large break that stayed away.
Diego Ulissi won a controversial sprint crossing the line in second place but Giovanni Visconti was relegated to third for improper sprinting, having pushed Ulissi rider off his line. Visconti attempted to pass on the blind side but reached out and pushed Ulissi just before the line and managed to cross the line first. The UCI judges ruled in Ulissi's favour. As they say: polemica! 

Stage: Diego Ulissi
Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador

Region: Lombardy
Wine: Castellazzo Gugiarolo PN Bianco 10 $19.00

They say: Gugiarolo is a wine produced by the white vinification of the Pinot Nero grape belonging to the omonimous vineyards which have been owned by Vercesi del Castellazzo since the 16th century. The place name, of Longobard origin, was often noted in the archives of the Barnabite monks for "la buona esposizione a meridione e la naturale protezione dai venti del levante" the good south-facing position and natural protection from the wild east winds.
The Vercesi del Castellazzo estate is located 30 miles south of Milan - in Lombardy- in the heart of Oltrepo' Pavese on the hills overhanging the city of Stradella, south of the Po River. The winery was founded in 1808 when the great-grand father of the present owner bought the "Castellazzo"; until Napoleon's army took it, it was a monastary of Barnabite order built over the ruins of a Beccaria family castle.

The nose begins with white flowers and tart unripe peach. As it opens up it reveals notes of lanolin and soft apricot fruit. On the palate the wine has weight and structure with subdued spicy stone fruit and pronounced minerality. This wine is very dry and rich but in an indescribable, almost masculine way. Its a man's white.

I say: One I have been looking forward to. A man's white?  Hmm. . . That aside, perfumed and balanced. Looking forward to spending more time with it tonight. 

Giro Stage 16: An Uphill Time Trial

A quick glance at today's stage may make you wonder why so short. After all,  Belluno-Nevegal, Cronoscalata, 12.6 km, sounds like a repeat of Monday's rest day. Instead, we have a mountain time trial. The time trial, for those not familiar with cycling is the one stage of a race that it is simply one man on a bike riding against the clock.  This stage, apart from a short descent at the start, is all climbing, sometimes steeply so. The middle 4km of the stage averages more than 10 per cent, ramping up to 14 per cent as the route reaches Tornante. So unlike a typical time trial which favors the power men, this course is for the climbers. And so it went.

Stage: Alberto Contador
Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador

Region: Veneto
Wine: Monte Tondo Soave Classico $14.99

They say: 100% Garganega,hand-picked last ten days of September and first ten days of October. Cold maceration for more than 12 hours depending on the ripeness of the fruit; soft pressing; fermentation in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of between 18-20°C, with autoctoni raising agents.
Yellow with gold highlights and green hues; floral bouquet laced with scents of exotic fruit, almonds, hazelnuts and mineral aromas; full-bodied with a long finish; balanced and harmonious on the palate; improves with ageing.

I say: Full bodied, golden yellow, fruity nose with some pear.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stage 15 Conegliano - Gardeccia/Val di Fassa, 229km

More mountains. And, for the home viewer, gorgeous scenery as the cyclists climbed, climbed some more and climbed again for seven and 1/2 hours through the Dolomites. The 229km route from Conegliano to Gardeccia- included the highest point in the race, the Giau.
Of course, we had a "devil" sighting today:
Former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli, in what may be his final season racing, led the race over the Passo Giau and survived to the bottom of the day's final climb, even throwing an elbow at a few spectators crowding him. On that ascent, Mikel Nieve caught and passed him to take the stage. 
The battle for the maglia rosa continued with second-placed Vincenzo Nibali attacking on the descent of the Giau, still two climbs from the finish. But Alberto Contador used several countrymen from other teams catch back on. Nibali then exploded on the Passo Fedaia and sagged behind Contador and his other competitors for the podium, only to use his tremendous descending skills to rejoin the group for the final climb to Gardeccia. Contador then attacked, followed by his main rivals who were scattered along the road up to this Dolomite alpine wilderness. 
The time gaps speak volumes:

Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 7:27:14  
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:01:41  
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:01:51  
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:57  
5 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:28  
6 José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Androni Giocattoli 0:02:35  
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:34  
8 Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team    
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:04:01  
10 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:04:13  

Stage: Mikel Nieve
Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador

GC after Stage 15
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 62:15:29  
2 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:20  
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:05:11  
4 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:08  
5 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:06:32  
6 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:07:03  

Region: Trento-Alto Adige

Wine: Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall 2009 $37.99
 They say: Feldmarschall is a special wine. The vineyards sit on the high plateau of Fennberg, and are protected from the northerly winds and ripened in a a unique microclimate. At an elevation of 3,300 feet above see level, these are among the highest vineyards in Europe. The wine is named after Franz Philipp Freiherr von Fenner zu Fennberg, founder of the Austrian Kaiserjäger (soldiers of the Austrian emperor), who once used this picturesque Hofstatt as a summer residence.

Saveur's Top 100 Favorite Things #95 Saveur - Jan./Feb. 2008 
"To declare Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall, a white wine produced high in the Dolomites of Italy, the world’s finest wine made with müller-thurgau grapes is to damn it with faint praise. It is, simply, one of the most exciting whites to be found in Italy today. In contrast to the table wines usually produced from that German-born fruit, this impeccably balanced wine exhibits a nuanced floral bouquet, a taut structure, and a long, complex finish that speaks of both the uncompromising dedication of its makers and an utterly distinctive sense of place."
I say: I admit it. I don't tend to shop by label and as this wine was selected for me by Melissa Sutherland, I did not in this case. But I would have. Pale lemon in color, the nose is both green apples and herbs. Elegant with a very long finish, both acid and concentration. Forced me to put down my book and pay attention.  Could be the wine of the Giro so far. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stage 14 Lienz to Zoncolan

And we have another route change. As originally scheduled, the racs would leave Austria and return to Italy with a stage featuring Monte Crostis and Monte Zoncolan, separated by the most treacherous descent in the race. However, the race jury removed Monte Crostis because of team and rider protests over the safety of the descent. Story available at Cycling News.
This news disappointed many fans, including some on course with a homemade protest sign.
As for the race itself, the route was changed again mid-stream due to a fans' protest, something that makes me think of labor strikes during the Tour de France. It was a noble effort by both Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali, but in the end Alberto Contador added to his stage as Anton held on for the stage win. My highlight of the day performance was Nibali, who initially suffered from Igor Anton's acceleration and Contador's response. But Nibali clawed his way back to Contador and Scarponi, eventually surging forward with Contador, leaving Scarponi behind. Towards the end of the stage, Contador jumped away again and finished second, but only a handful of seconds ahead of Nibali. Scarponi also limited his losses coming in fourth, while the now you see him, now you don't, Denis Menchov finished fifth.

Stage: Igor Anton
Maglia Rosa: Contador

Region: Friuli  Venezia 
Wine: Edi Kante Vitovska 06  $42.00 12.5% abv
They say: 90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2006 Vitovska is incredibly dense and rich in this vintage. This textured white reveals generous fruit in an expansive yet intensely mineral style, with excellent depth and persistence on the palate. There is a lovely baritone register to the fruit, but the wine needs considerable air to be fully appreciated. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2014." (10/09)

I say:  Deep golden color, almost a hint of honey, perhaps the baritone register mentioned above? But more acid than sweetness. Guest pleased.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Giro Stage 13 Austrian Alps

So it was a hard day for us anyone but Contador fans as he once again had an absolutely dominant mountain stage. In wet and chilly conditions on the massive Austrian peak, Contador was happy to let Venezuela’s José Rujano take the stage win in the knowledge that his main rivals for the overall title were still a kilometre from the line.

Stage: Rujano
Maglia Rosa: Contador

Region: Austrian Alps
Wine: none
Yup, none. I asked Terry Theise and was assured there is no wine from this region. Which bothered me for a while. But given the cycling news today of Tyler Hamilton's accusations against Lance Armstrong and the did he or didn't he situation with George Hincapie, I don't really feel like drinking to celebrate cycling. I'm not naive, I follow the sport closely enough, including getting up at 4 am to watch the classics live online, to know that not only did doping happen, but it continues to happen. And to a certain extent, I accept that as a fan I will spend far too much time talking about the doping stories with non fans and not the sport itself. Which, of course, should happen as well as a baseball fan, but doesn't. I don't want to bury my head in the sand and ignore reality. But it would be nice, in a week with the Giro (even if less thrilling than last year) and the Tour of California (a race on US soil) to not have this issue dominate the headlines.

CBS News story here:
Cycling News story:

Hincapie on twitter:
"I can confirm to you I never spoke with "60 Minutes." I have no idea where they got their information.
As I've said in the past, I continue to be disappointed that people are talking about the past in cycling instead of the future.
As for the substance of anything in the "60 Minutes" story, I cannot comment on anything relating to the ongoing investigation."

I'm going to go watch the end of the Red Sox game.  And think about Roger Clemens and seeing him strike out 20 at Fenway one night.

Tomorrow, back to the wine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giro Stage 12: Castelfidardo - Ravenna, 184km

Paging the few remaining sprinters: This is the last flat stage, and as such is seen as likely to be the last stage in which the Giro's sprinters will take the start. To show just how flat, see the stage profile below, from Cycling News.

It will surprise very few cycling fans that Mark Cavendish won today's stage after the high-speed crash in the final 3 kilometers that held up most of the field.

I have a lot of friends who are not sports fans. One of my repeated arguments I use in attempting to get them to attend games, races, etc with me is to talk about a "pay to see player." It is not an original idea at all and is very simple. Certain players, no matter what the sport have such a high degree of mastery that it is worth it to see them play even if you are not a fan. People like Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. In cycling, the sprinters are the glamorous, rock-stars of the peloton. They may not wine the grand tours, but their performances can be simply amazing to watch. My favorite sprinter to watch these days is by far Mark Cavendish. The combination of the amazing HTC leadout "train" especially Mark Renshaw, combined with his talent make his victories rather, well, pretty to watch. The fact that he is often amusing doesn't hurt either. Cavendish along with most of the other remaining sprinters will withdraw from the race today saying that "there’s no sprints and nothing he can do to help the team who would have to look after him." I'll look forward to seeing him again in July.

Stage: Mark Cavendish
Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador

Region: Emilia Romagna
Wine: Lini 910 Labrusca Rose $18.00

They say: Lambrusco Salamino is blended with the high-acid, high-tannin sub-variety Lambrusco di Sorbara to produce a bracing, palate-cleansing style. The wine is vinified using the Charmat
method and is kept near freezing in pressurized tanks until bottling.  

From Ray Isle, Food & Wine's wine editor: "I recently tasted some artisanal Lambruscos that will make you forget you ever heard the word Riunite. The producer is Lini, and the wines are made by fourth-generation winemaker Alicia Lini, whose family has been producing Lambrusco in Correggio, in Reggio Emilia, since 1910. This isn't zillion-case production plonk, as a lot of Lambrusco is; these are fresh, vibrant sparkling wines, ideal for summer drinking, and not overwhelmingly expensive, either. [The Rosé offers] crisp strawberry aromas, and bright strawberry-cherry fruit, appropriate, since "Cerasa" means cherry in Italian. This is made from the Sorbara grape variety, whose light skin naturally supplies the pale red color."

I say:  Lively and fresh, the really gorgeous cherry color makes it look sweeter than it is. Dare I say: Gulpable? Would be a lovely party wine, accessible enough for my non-wine friends, but appealing enough for the snobs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giro Stage 11: Tortoreto Lido - Castelfidardo, 142km
This shark-toothed profile of this 144km leg to Castefidardo suggests a day packed with attacks. Famous for a key battle during the unification campaign, the finishing town of Castefidardo stands high above the countryside.
Stage 11 has what is known as a “comb style” or “sawtooth” profile and, apparently, the longest stretch of flat section on this 144 km day is just 3 km. After leaving the beach of the seaside resort town of Tortoreto Lido, the peloton will head inland for an up and down day through the foothills of the Central Apennines. There are four category 4 climbs on the way to the uphill finish in Castelfidardo.

As for the results: Frenchman John Gadret made a late attack to win the 144km 11th stage of the Tour of Italy from Tortoreto Lido to Castelfidardo on Wednesday as Spaniard Alberto Contador retained the leader's pink jersey. With the peloton hunting down a 12-man breakaway group, AG2R's Gadret sprung from the pack with just 400m left and overhauled Spain's Daniel Moreno to win by several bike lengths.

Stage: John Gadret
Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador

Region: Marche
Wine: Conte Leopardi Sauvignon Blanc Calcare 08 $23.00 13.5% abv

Jon Bonne says: 2008 Conte Leopardi Dittajuti Calcare Marche IGT Sauvignon ($18): Sauvignon Blanc typically grows in the northern reaches of Alto Adige, at the edge of the Alps. The Marche, the coastal region where northern Italy meets the south, is not Sauvignon territory per se. However, work with consultant Riccardo Cotarella on six clones of Sauvignon and the presence of limestone-marl soils has left this wine deep and herbal, with weight but not undue gloss. Sharp, stony stuff - dried pineapple, green apple and tart quince, with a minty intensity that stands with the best of Alto Adige. (Importer: A.I. Selections) Read more:

I say:   Sharp is right. Structured also. After, I get done with the Wines of the Tour de France, someone remind me that Italian whites are not just for the Giro?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giro Stage 10


First rest day done, today the peloton  returns to the mainland and turns north up Italy's Adriatic coast riding 159 km from Termoli to Teramo.  The Giro  calls it a pianeggiante (flat). The ride along the Adriatic coast will include only small hills, past the fishing town of Pescara to Giulanova, where the stage turns inland. All signs point to a breakaway brought back followed by a field sprint. To my amusement, here was a tweet from Mark Cavendish: Look! Look! Oh! Oh! Oh! Look! Look! A sprint! A real sprint! For sprinters!

And sure enough, to my delight, he came through with the victory! 

Stage: Mark Cavendish
Maglia Rossa: Caontador

Region: Abruzzo
Wine: Nicodemi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 08 $17.00   

They say: Fattoria Nicodemi is located in the Teramo district in Abruzzo, a hilly province bordering the Adriatic sea in central Italy. It was founded by Bruno Nicodemi, and today is run by brother and sister team Alessandro and Elena Nicodemi. High up in these chalky, clay-rich hills, the Nicodemi estate couldn't be better located—and any more different than bulk producers in the Abruzzo lowlands. The family's vineyards, at more than 900 feet above sea level, enjoy a slow cook, with warm afternoons and cool evenings. “We try to work in a simple way,” says Elena, to let the estate's terroir speak clearly; all field work, including the harvest, is done by hand. Their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo wines represent fruit-forward, single-varietal bottlings that are both rich in flavor and represent great value.

I say: Sturdy, deep color, dark fruit. Would be nice with my favorite meatballs and pasta.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Images from

 I've been waiting for this one. Even before the news of an eruption three days ago  this was one that looked exciting. Would they be forced to cancel the stage? No, it turns out. "Sunday's stage is not at risk. The stretch in question is only that of the last four miles on Etna,” said Giro director Angelo Zomegnan in a statement. “But on-site teams are already working to clear the road. We are calm.”
The cyclists may not be calm so much as exhausted. From twitter @craiglewis85 reports: "Only have a 180km race with 2x Mt. Etna (erupting), a bus ride, boat ride, plane ride and another bus ride before our first rest day begins!"
This 169 km route traces the Sicilian coastline before climbing the eastern slopes of Mount Etna and dropping back to the coastline for a summit finish atop the mountain. Riders will climb 19,255 feet and descend a 9,734 feet for a total elevation change of 9,521 feet.
Images from
And off they went. And despite my shouting at the television for ABC (Anyone but Contador), he won easily. The question at the end of the day is: Is the Giro over? With his dominant stage win today and move into the Maglia Rosa, Alberto Contador left many thinking that he has won already. I'm hoping that is not the case.

Stage Winner & Maglia Rosa: Alberto Contador
Region: Sicily
Wine: Cos Frappato $26.99 12% abv

They say: Reviewer:Wolfgang M. Weber , Publication:Wine & Spirits Magazine
Review:The '07 Frappato might just be the secret weapon of COS, a feisty combination of earthy, herbal scents and ripe strawberry notes. It's a vibrant wine evocative of the Mediterranean coast.
Reviewer:Jon Bonné , Publication:San Francisco Chronicle
Review: Sicily’s unofficially biodynamic COS might be best known for its Cerasuolo di Vittoria. But here, Frappato’s bright strawberry flavors are on terrific display, with a balsamic touch and slightly wild herbal accents. 

I say: Helping me deal with the sadness of both Contador's win and the cancellation of the first stage of the Tour of California due to snow. Not going to disagree with the reviews above, but having made both strawberry muffins and crisp today, light and bright and herbal are jumping out more than strawberry.

Charcutepalooza: Sausage

And for May we have the Grinding Challenge:

Using any method to chop the meat, for the Apprentice Challenge, we ask that you make Breakfast Sausage patties.
Using any method to chop the meat, for the Charcutiere Challenge, please make either Merguez or Mexican Chorizo (as bulk sausage.)

Lisa and I opted for chorizo, though I do suspect that I truly am an apprentice. Luckily I had a bone-in pork shoulder from Marin Sun Farms in my freezer and Lisa had the kitchenaid grinding attachment so it seemed like the hardest part of this challenge would be timing. Between family visits and Giro wine, it took until the 14th for us to get grinding. And, yes, there is no way to type that without snickering. 

Arriving at Lisa's with K in tow, I assumed we would be in for a quick day. First up was removing the meat from the still somewhat frozen bone-in shoulder. Easy enough, though I don't think I'll be butchering whole hogs for crowds anytime soon. Meanwhile, Lisa mixed together our spice mix. Pork was diced and combined with spices and put into the freezer to chill with the kitchenaid attachments and several bowls.  

A little while later, everything was brought back out and grinding began. Or really, failed to  truly begin. Whether it was human error involving poorly butchered meat and sinews clogging the blades or if the garage sale blades were simply too dull, grinding failed. Not deterred, we cleaned the equipment, put everything back into the freezer and took a lunch break to enjoy homemade gravlax.

Back at it, we were met once again with failure. Clearly, it was time for plan B: the food processor. After another chilling break,  our pork was easily transformed into chorizo. We then fried up a piece of our homemade version next to the Fatted Calf version Lisa had purchased.  Our conclusion, the Fatted Calf version was the clear winner but our version was a fine first effort.

And what will I do with the chorizo? I'm thinking a breakfast taco with scrambled eggs, chorizo, Rancho Gordo Rio Zape Beans and home canned hot sauce.  But that, I admit, will wait until after Wines of the Giro and my upcoming travel is done. Next time, I'm curious about homemade hot dogs. Something about a party with both pimento cheese and pigs in a blanket made with homemade hot dogs is calling to me. 


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Giro Stage 8 Sapri-Tropea

Today the cyclists journeyed through Calabria. The departure town of Sapri is a popular seaside resort on the Gulf of Policastro. The race then traveled 217 mainly flat kilometers along the coast to Tropea with a short and steep climb at the very end. Tropea, the internet tells me, is perched on a cliff and is called the “Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea.” 
The stage went much like predicted: a break gained a lot of time and then lost it. The eventual winner, Oscar Gatto, made his move on the climb at the end. The biggest surprise today was second place finisher and pre-race-favorite Alberto Contador, who apparently decided that today was a fine day to send his rivals a message. The gap of 7 seconds to the field, plus his time bonus, means he is now only 13 seconds behind the maglia rosa, and could well be in pink when tomorrow's race is over
I must admit that I was hoping for a Cavendish victory today. Instead, I quote @Mark_Renshaw "The #Giro isn't kind to the sprinters this year. Always uphill or stupid crazy finishes..."

 Maglia Rosa:Pieter Weening
 Stage winner: Oscar Gatto

Region:  Calabria
Wine: Tenuta del Conte "Ciró" Rosso 08 $15.00 13.5% abv

They say: The vineyards of Tenuta del Conte overlook the Ionian Sea, bringing to mind the region’s ancient past, so it is no surprise that the Gaglioppo grape they cultivate most likely arrived in Calabria with the first Greek settlers. It has proven to be uniquely suited to the local climate, which is characterized by very hot days and cool nights, a factor that helps maintain acidity in the wines. Francesco Parilla, the estate's winemaker, is committed to Calabria’s traditions. He cultivates only native varieties and farms the land without chemicals. The grapes are meticulously picked by hand, and vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks to preserve the freshness and clarity of the wines. Parilla uses indigenous yeast and minimal sulfur.

I say: Smooth, silky even, red fruits on the nose. Easy to drink and food friendly. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Giro Stage 7: Campania

The climbing has begun, sort of. Today's stage was 110 kilometers from Maddaloni to the summit of Montevergine di Mercogliano. Bart De Clerq launched an escape on the climb to  Montevergine that lasted all the way to the finish line, barely. Michele Scarponi launched an attack in the final kilometer and he brought a hard-charging group of four favorites -- accompanied by overall threats Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger, as well as former winner Stefano Garzelli. Scarponi outkicked his companions but missed catching De Clerq by inches.

Maglia Rosa:  Peter Weening
Stage winner: Bart De Clercq

Region: Campania

Wine: Bruno de Conciliis Selim 12.5% abv  $21.99


They say:

Jazz music is our way of making wine.
We improvise the melodies of the grapes.
We make a unique performance of every harvest
Selim is like Miles, in his late phase, light and chilled out,
When only the sound of his trumpet reminded listeners of his sad ballads,
A profound music but deeply enjoyable like our sparkling wine,
A boat wine with the same disposition as the one of the land where it is produced,
Sweet and impertinent at the same time,
The first Aglianico grape-based sparkling wine produced in Campania.


I say:  Crisp, refreshing, fruit forward with apple notes. 



Giro Stage 6

And today we are in the Lazio, traveling from Orvieto to Fiuggi Terme.

To be honest, this was a dull stage. The stage was a long slog of 216km circling just east of Rome, one of those that were it in the middle of the race, I might find myself zoning out on. Predictable break and almost the predictable win by Petacchi
 In other news, Sunday's stage to Mount Etna in Sicily might be forced to alter its route. Europe's most active volcano erupted again last night, though so far the race is saying plans have not changed. A small crater released some lava and dust on the volcano's east flank. This activity shouldn't threaten the stage but the Giro will monitor the situation in the case of further eruptions.

Stage: Francisco Ventoso
Maglia Rosa: Peter Weening

Wine: Capolemole Carpinetti 06 $19.99
They say: Carpineti’s organic estate, farmed with the assistance of his son, is one hour outside Rome. His “Capolemole” is produced of Bellone, a native variety of Lazio, and perhaps sharing DNA with Malvasia. Plinius called it the "fantastic grape" while others have dubbed it not so fantastically. This white wine crafted of organic Bellone shows a creamy, stone-fruit quality. Some citrus character shows with a nutty redolence.

I say: Agreed on creamy and nutty but still maintains a freshness.  In the best possible way, a fun wine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wines of the Giro Stage 5

After Monday's tragedy and the symbolic and very emotional ride of Tuesday, on Wednesday the cyclists raced again. Today's race was 191km in Umbria from Piombino to Orvieto. It was an up and down day with three short climbs at Saragiolo, Croce di Fighine, and Valico di Monte Nibbio. On this final climb, the riders raced over gravel roads. Another 10 kilometer sector of gravel finished just outside 10 kilometers to race. The dirt rides provided the expected drama with crashes, near misses and a lot of dust. In fact, the Universal Sports coverage delighted in contrasting the dust of today to the mud of last year. Honestly, the mud looked like more fun and riders reported that the dry conditions made the road more slippery that they expected. In the end, Peter Weening soloed to both a stage victory and a day in pink.

Stage Winner and maglia rosa: Peter Weening

Wine: 09 Milziade Antano Grechetto dei Colli Martani $13.99 12% abv 67wine

They say: Despite its Greek origin, Greccheto has been cultivated in Italy since antiquity. Milziade Antano, a true traditionalist in Umbria, produces his 100% Greccheto in the Colli Martani DOC. Stylistically Antano would be in the old school in wine making terms – the lack of intervention in the winery, no barrique and no high-tech equipment.  All of Antano’s wines speak to the strength and passion of the land and the people who till and harvest its fruits. The wine is varietally true, full-bodied and showing subtle lemon and mineral character.

I say: Refreshing. Dry with citrus and floral notes. Makes me wish for a warm day on a lounge chair in my yard or a summer party. Well, in places that are warmer in July than San Francisco. Probably also very nice after a 191km dusty bike ride.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wouter Weylandt

I'm not a cyclist. The last day of my freshman year in high school a classmate was killed on her bike. My response was to stop riding. A few years ago, I went so far as to buy a bike in an attempt to try again. However, the streets of San Francisco were too intimidating and I gave up.  Thus, I suggest you skip my babbling below and take a look at this post from Bikesnobnyc

I'll not be writing about today's Giro wine. Like many cycling fans around the world, I was watching live coverage of the Giro this morning. The stage was moving along as expected, with a break up ahead and the peloton closing in when all of that ceased to matter. Universal Sports, and I assume all others, showed footage of a fallen rider, later identified as Wouter Weylandt. It was clear from both the initial shot and. the follow-up of medics doing CPR, that this was not the typical race injury. Indeed, by the time I got to my desk at work, reports had come out that attempts to revive him had failed and that he had died. He was 26 years old and his wife is reportedly pregnant with their first child, due in September. More information about Weylandt can be found on numerous places online including Podium CafeVelo News, and The New York Times.

I recorded the stage, along with watching it live, but do not think I will ever need to re watch. The stark reminder of the dangers of the sport was chilling and one I will not forget anytime soon. David Millar, the new wearer of the maglia rosa said it better than I ever could: “I love cycling, and I've always been enchanted by the epic scale of it all, it was why I fell in love with it as a boy. Yet Wouter's death today goes beyond anything that our sport is supposed to be about, it is a tragedy that we as sportsmen never expect, yet we live with it daily, completely oblivious to the dangers we put ourselves in. This is a sad reminder to us, the racers, what risks we take and what lives we lead."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stage 2 Alba to Parma

Stage win: Alessandro Petacchi
Pink: Mark Cavendish

Alba to Parma. A long, clearly doomed one man break. A short, also doomed, escape after the bunch came back together. Hands flung in anger. It must be our first sprinting stage. Indeed, Alessandro Petacch won his 22nd career stage of the Giro d'Italia in the longest stage of this year's race. The stage ended in a long, flat, straight run-in to Alba with Petacchi beating Mark Cavendish by a tire width. Cavendish complained that Petacchi illegally veered off his line to interfere with his sprint, but there was no official action taken. 

Btw, if you are a cycling fan on twitter, I suggest following both @MarkCavendish and @Mark_Renshaw for an insider's view of the art of sprinting.

Region: Emilia Romagna
Wine: Camillo Donati Malvasia  $20.00
Importer's note: The Donati estate is a family estate started in 1930. They cultivate 11 ha of vines (7 of which they own as Tenuta S. Andrea and 4 which are leased at Tenuta Bottazza) using organic and biodynamic practices They are about 20 km away from Parma in the hillside at an altitude of around 250 m with an eastern exposition.

All the grapes, including the white, are fermented like red wines (with skin contact), without temperature control, and use no other controls or enhancers at fermentation, no fining, no acidification or de-acidification, no selected yeasts, etc.The carbonation of these frizzante wines comes from the traditional method of refermentation in bottle, a method that does not require preservatives and which makes this wine, unlike those produced in charmat method, age better. The wines are not filtered and are topped with a crown cap (a traditional closure for some decades in this region).

I say: Frizzante for Mother's Day! Orange, dry, beer-y. Herbs, honey yeast and tannins.

Giro 2011 Stage One

And we're off. Or they are off. Or some such thing. Saturday marked the start of the 2011 Giro. This year, The  Giro will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. The racers will ride 3,522.5 km and tackle nine mountain stages with 21 Category 1 or 2 climbs and seven mountaintop finishes. 

But to start, a team time trial. For those not familiar with the sport, the TTT as it is known, features entire teams of riders racing against the clock rather than each other. Teams start at equal intervals, usually two, three or four minutes apart. The recorded finishing time in a team time trial is based on the 5th rider of that team. Therefore a team may choose to have a few of its riders take a death pull towards the end of the TTT event, in which the riders take as hard a pull at the front to lift the pace at the cost of exhausting themselves with no hope of being able to latch onto the back of the formation for drafting. They then drop back and leave the remainder of the team to finish the time trial.

Winner: To the surprise of exactly nobody, HTC won today's team time trial to Torino
Pink: Marco Pinotti (note for non-cycling fans, much as the leader of the Tour de France wears yellow, in the Giro the leader wears pink, the maglia rosa. In the past, this has meant that the Giro is K's favorite race of the season)

Region:  19.3-km from Venezia Reale to Turin beginning and ending in Piedmont.

Wine:  La Torrazza Erbaluce 08 
12.5% abv $21.00
Importer's notes: "Luigi Ferrando has long been the leading winemaker of the Canvese region in Piedmont where his family's winemaking tradition goes back to 1900. Like many of our other producers, he has strong ties to his local region. His attachment and commitment run deep, and have led him to collaborate with other winemakers and academics. They are responsible for discovering and preserving local winemaking traditions that might otherwise have been lost. His sons, Roberto and Andrea, now work with him on the estate, thereby assuring the continuation of the Ferrando tradition.

Around the village of Caluso they raise some interesting local grape varieties, and are particularly known for their Erbaluce di Caluso. Erbaluce is an ancient white grape originally form the alpine foothills of upper Piedmont. It has a bright acidity, an elegant underlying minerality, and an overall structure that makes it the ultimate flexible wine: producing everything from sparkling wine, through bone-dry, off-dry, and late harvest wines."

I say: Nice acidity and minerality. Brisk. Kind of like the weather in San Francisco.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hospice du Rhone

Before I descend or, given this year's route, ascend into the Giro, I wanted to report back on my trip to Hospice du Rhone and my champagne detour.
I was delighted to receive a media pass to HdR. It is one of those events that I had always meant to attend but there had always been a conflict. This year I thought I might be able to make the entire event–seminars, tastings, a rose lunch and more. Alas, day one of the event conflicted with our sales conference, so I spent my Friday talking with our reps about the fall list. Which, to be honest, is not a bad way to spend a day. As I have said before, I'm very excited about the Fall 11 season for, among others, Gerald Asher, Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop, Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar, Breaking Through Concrete, Weighing In, Rioja, Theise in paperback with a new preface and a book I kinda-vaguely helped acquire The Art of Eating Cookbook.
My role at the meeting done I jumped in the car and drove down to Paso Robles. I had missed the seminars and walk around tasting, but met up with future UC Press author Lisa Shara Hall for the Soiree dinner. Food, wine, and a chance to stretch my legs after both a long day at the meeting table and in the car made me feel much better about life.
The next morning we were up and at 'em early for breakfast followed by a seminar on the wines of the Roussillon moderated by another future UC Press author, Patrick Comiskey. Judging by his introduction, he may have a possible sideline as an old school evangelical preacher. This seminar was excellent, providing an introduction to a region I knew little about, with a panel of winemakers and wines that really spoke to their theme "They Have a Dream." I found myself thinking many of these wines would be helpful for the Pyrenees stages of my wines of the Tour de France. Coming, once again, in June.
Next up was a second seminar: High Noon: a pictorial and narrated tour of the 2011 growing season of McLaren Vale with Drew Noon of Noon Winery. For me the highlight was tasting the three components of the 2010 Eclipse, grenache and both destemmed and whole bunch shiraz.
Then it was time for lunch and the annual auction. The auciton was a chance to bid on on rare and one-of-a-kind auction lots generously donated by Hospice du Rhône friends and worldly Rhône producers. I did not take home any lots.
After a bit of a break it was on to the Saturday Grand Tasting. As I had tasted at several of these producers at the recent Rhone Rangers, I concentrated on either new to me or foreign wineries. Highlights included the biodynamic AmByth, Guigal and a glass or perhaps two of a 96 Clape Cornas.
Later it was off to the Farewell BBQ with more food, wine and even some craps. I admit to calling it an early night as I had plans for my Sunday. In all, I thought this was a really well-done event, worth the drive from the Bay Area. Although I missed a day of seminars, the ones that I attended were both educational and entertaining. A second highlight, of course, was the opportunity to spend time both with the winemakers but also other industry friends. I will admit though that it was a bit odd at first to be back at the Paso fair grounds.  The last time I had been there, it had been with K for the fair, show pigs, Tim McGraw performing, ferris wheel and all.

Sunday I was up at 6:30 and out the door to meet Lisa for our drive up to Pebble Beach. Few things would have inspired me to be out that early, but I found I could not turn down a chance to taste 1990 vintage champagne. 1990 has been called one of the greatest vintages in recent memory and an opportunity to taste and compare Deutz, Grande Dame, Feuillatte, Dom Perignon, Tattinger, Salon and Moet & Chandon was a can't be missed event. The panel, led by fellow Red Sox and Carolina basketball fan Bruce Schoenfeld included, among others, Raj Parr and Larry Stone, who may avoid comparing champagne and blondes in the future. As many of these champagnes are out of my budget even upon release, it was wonderful to taste them and to ponder house style and vintage. My three favorites were the Salon, Dom Perignon and the Deutz.
Next up was a visit to their Grand Tasting tents before heading back up to SF for dumplings and oolong before dropping Lisa at Bart and heading home for an early night. Well, at least until twitter let me know about the breaking news story.