Michelin Bib Gourmand Recipient

Ever Wondered about Ribero del Duero, Wonder No More

Some Famous Ribero Producers

Some Famous Ribero Producers

So you’ve all heard of Rioja by now, but what about her kissing cousin the Ribero del Duero? Lucky for you I am one to kiss and tell. Rioja has emerged as Tempranillo’s marketing agent extraordinaire. Though, to the northwest, in Ribera del Duero, 1/3rd the size of Rioja, a long awaited story is finally being told. While attending a recent seminar & tasting of these historic wines I was inspired to share their story with you.

Ribera del Duero is known for Tinto (Red) & Rosado (Rose’) all from the Tempranillo grape. The DO (Domain of Origin – designation) here was established in 1982, though winemaking in this region reaches back to the mid-1800’s. Established producers like Tinto Pesquera, Pingus, Vina Sastre & the unorthodox Vega Sicilia all claim deep reaching roots in this DO, literally.

In Burgos, in the heart of this DO, expect beautifully integrated, high acid reds that express the more austere side of this food-friendly vinefera. the small production 2011 “Mibal” by Hornillos Ballesteros shows deep cherry tones & eucalyptus while 2008 Tinto Paesquera to the west expresses a more masculine tone of cedar & plum. Unknown-1

Then there is Soria, to the east. A region which caught my attention. Heret is a story of a terroir that hosts 100-125 year old pre-phylloxera root stock & un-grafted vines. Veterans that sit watchfully & tell stories which few can fathom. Stories which unfold ethereally on the palate. Two were well represented. First was the 2010 Antidoto, rusty brown & deep with woodland strawberries and mint tones that reflect 100yr old root-stock that pull from an uncommon place. The second, bigger & bolder, was the 2009 “Valdegatiles” by Atauta whose focus is letting you know it has aged for 16months in french oak with its baked fruit aromas & 125 year old lineage.

I linger writing this looking for a proper closing line. I look over my notes & see stars and side notations that just say “persue”.

Going South – Exploring the Evolving Wines of Southern Italy

By John Aranza

For years Southern Italy was on the verge of a bad reputation. You know, the kind of rep where you’re known for “getting around”. Quantity and quality do not always go hand in hand, so much of the wicker covered bottles heading out of Italy for many years were not the best. The market was there however and as a result many producers fell into the habit of lower quality wines to get the most bang for the buck….Later when Napa reds rose in popularity, again Southern Italy tried to compete with big – Cab forward wines that they felt would appeal to the international market.

But these times are a changing…..

There is a movement right now in the South to use this limited terroir how it was originally intended; high quality wines with perhaps lower yield, that have brought serious attention to the potential of this historic winemaking region.

Lets start with Frank Cornelissen. Starting with 200eu, he bought a small plot of land on Mount Etna. Now expanded to 8.5 hectares of sustainable vinyards, these wines are identified not by vintage but rather number. A minimal approach by an extraordinary vintner. At last weeks tasting we poured the Munjabel Bianco No. 8 (800 bottles total produced). A blend primarily dominated by Grecanico Dorato, it offers an incredible nose of caramel & nuttiness, this is a part of oxidation. Historically, this was always an undesirable quality in whites. However in natural aging where it is intentional the wines are different. The result of the all natural practice of amphorae aging with no sulphites added, nothing but the vocanic ash & minerals at work here produce some interesting wines. The winemakers aging this way believe they are getting back to the basics of winemaking. These wines are indeed limited though. Based on the yield. We had the opportunity to dine with Frank when he was last in Chicago and he remarked that this particular wine was limited because his horses broke into the 2hectare plot & ate a fair amount of that vintage’s ripened grapes!

Another producer we featured at our last tasting was Arianna Occupinti. She is one of a few new style winemakers in Sicily who has really put them back on the map. Last Wednesday at Wine Wednesdays we poured her soft yet expressive 2011 Frappato. Grown on 10 Hectares of stoney vinyards, this southern blending grape gets a homecoming crown in this very capable producers hands. Soft tannins & fruit are reminiscent of a Burgundy, but Sicilian at heart with a uniqueness all their own. Ariana took the vineyards organic, then biodynamic, and the resulting wines are stellar on the palate. Small packages do indeed deliver big things with altitude & attitude and an astute winemaker all combining to create this exceptional wine. Bravo!

Finally our journey took us to Puglia, for the 2005 Alberto Longo “Capoposto” which is driven by the Negro Amaro grape. Translated into “Dark Bitter”, this astringent Southerner must be in the right hands. In this case it is, delivering a lush and welcoming, mouth-filling wine. Deliberately light on skin contact, this old world vinefera is tamed by oak transforming this rough around the edges grape into a wine that is a formidable contender! Lamb, Short Ribs & other hearty fare come hither….we have a match for you!

Our next entry will explore this weeks tasting which focused on French whites. Up next week, join us for Sherries or join us in April for our next series of Wine Wednesdays. Always at the bar, always informal and always fun!

On Jasci Atteso Pecorino…..or…”How I Learned to Love a Non-cheesy wine”…. by John Aranza

Jasci Atteso Pecorino

Pecorino, one may recall, is a tasty cheese from the Adriatic side of Italy. Known for its beautiful briny quality that is reminiscent of salt & sea. But did you know it is also and incredible under-dog of a varietal once on the verge of extinction?

My first encounter with this illusive grape goes back 11 years to Verona during Vin Italy. Traveling with my mentor Henry Bishop, I felt Robin to Batman….and as was typical of him, carefully laid-out plans led to an introduction; which I pleasantly can say made a remarkable first impression. This was also my threshold moment into what a wine was capable of outside the expected norms.

This obscure varietal originates in the Marche region of Italy (central-east). The name is rumored to come from the fact that the sheep of the region would nibble these grapes along with their requisite grasslands as they were being herded to lowland pastures. These journey’s resulting in the eventual milking of the sheep and this milk being used by the artisan cheese-makersof the area using this milk to produce lush and salty Pecorino cheese. As it typical with Italy the elements of a region are often brought together harmoniously resulting in exemplary food & wine.

Small vineyards producing this grape are found scattered throughout the Marche & Abruzzo, which is where ours is found. The Pecorino we serve currently is not typical, very rich & structured where these wines usually offer a lighter, less intense expression of the grape. The grape itself is very white and thin-skinned. The fragility of the grape is in fact the reason it almost faded into legend, as it’s slight-physique can lead to early splitting and sometimes rot. Fruit yield then, understandably is limited.

That which survives however is quite the go-getter…. usually reaching full ripeness by September being it is well-suited for the harsher climate of these regions. The result is a rich, viscous, yellow-fruit nose which leads to a salty, minerality which is quite unexpected. Jasci produces this very limited, bio-dynamic, 2007 juice in Abruzzo. Suggested pairing would be our goat-cheese tortalacci, which has a brown-butter sauce complimented by black truffle…or simply enjoy with any sheep’s milk cheese, and reminisce about the great lengths this vino has traveled to become a food-driven-contender!

To Henry!

Henry Bishop III

A Look Back at our Best Summer Cocktails

Med Mojito

As promised we are recapping our favorite summer cocktails inspired by the greenhouse, the Med Mojito, the Cucumber Fizz & the Berry Basil. These drinks were inspired by a combination of great herb varieties that flourished in the greenhouse and the fun products we discovered this past season. There is no doubt that muddling, infusions and hand crafted simple syrups were a big part of our summer bag of tricks. The most important thing to remember is to master the muddle. Don’t eviscerate your herbs, muddle them gently and they will yield the best flavor. Many of you will remember one or the other and we hope you will tuck these away for next year. Certainly, the leaves are falling but before we know it summer will be here again and these should provide some needed inspiration just in time to cool you off……tuck them away for a sunny day….cheers!

Med Mojito

Ingredients (makes one drink)

2.5 Oz Pyrat Rum
1 sprig Fresh Mint (we grew a special Mojito variety – lot’s of room to experiment here)
1.5 oz. Simple Syrup
Club soda


Gently muddle mint leaves with simple syrup, enough to break up leaves and release essential oils. Pour 1/2 of muddled mixture into bottom of collins glass, fill glass 1/2 way with ice. Pour in rest of mint/syrup mixture, fill to top with ice.
Add Pyrat rum, fill to top with club soda, serve!

Cucumber Fizz

This drink was inspired by the discovery of Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka & the cucumbers we grew in a hanging basket in the greenhouse. This is a sure fire summer refresher (we recommend it in a Pimm’s Cup as well).


Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka
1 sprig fresh Thyme
3 or 4 Lemon Verbena Leaves
Simple syrup
Club Soda or Ginger Beer
Persian cucumber slice (cut lenghtwise into thin strip)


Muddle lemon verbena & thyme just enough to release their essence and bring them together with the simple syrup. Pour 1/2 mixture in bottom of collins glass. Add cucumber vodka add ice to top of glass and add the rest of syrup mixture. Fill to top with your choice of club soda, ginger beer or a combination of the two. Garnish with slice of Persian Cucumber.

Berry Vodka Cooler

2 oz. House Infused Rasberry Vodka ( 1 pint OP Farmer’s Market Raspberries, vodka – infused in infusion bottle for a minimum of 72 hrs – flavor intensifies the longer you leave it in).
1 oz Jo Snow Strawberry Basil Syrup
3 leaves Fresh Basil (We used Genovese)
1 slice lime
4 oz Club soda

Berry Basil Cooler

Our next blog discussion will be all about wine and our upcoming wine dinner. After that look for a short series in November from Chef Dan Pancake sharing their culinary experiences living and working in Spain.


Gently muddle Basil leaves with Jo Snow Syrup. Just enough to bruise the leaves and release their essential oils). Place in martini shaker with ice, add house infused raspberry vodka & club soda. Stir to combine ingredients, pour into highball glass, garnish with lime and enjoy!