Archive for May, 2019

Ask Sid: Do you know the Pugnitello grape?

May 29th, 2019
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pugnitello grape wine

Question: Do you know the Pugnitello grape?

Answer: Yes an increasingly popular old Tuscan authoctonous (or indigenous) grape variety with small tight bunches that resemble a fist (“pugno”). Tried a 100% rich full one named Leopoldo from Fattoria Santa Vittoria but see it more as contributing to a blend with Sangiovese. Tasted this month from Rocca Di Montegrossi  their organic 2013 Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino with 7% Pugnitello “smoothing out” the 93% Sangiovese in this Chianti Classico DOCG.

A grape worth investigating.

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Perfect 100 Point Wine Scores Should Be Taken With A Grain of Salt!

May 27th, 2019

100 point wine checkmate artisanal winery perfect score

Quite a buzz generated throughout the wine community in early 2019 by a table wine from the Okanagan Valley achieving a perfect 100 point score.

Congrats to CheckMate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2015 for their single vineyard beauty in achieving this highest possible score from experienced John Schreiner in his Blog posting ( of February 22 titled “CheckMate wines: are they worth it?” The review ends with the comment “It is impossible to find anything negative about this wine. 100” This obviously poses the question whether that is really the right assessment test or not? These days with the improved refined procedures utilized in both the vineyard and the winery there are literally thousands of wines from around the world presently available in the marketplace very well made that have nothing negative about them. Do they all deserve a score of 100? We all agree that they don’t! Some of us feel that the perfect score of 100 should be unattainable always continuing to search for that perfect nirvana bottle in the future. You must remember that this is not an arithmetic objective score but a purely subjective one. Surely to obtain 100 or even to approach that level requires something very exceptional and exciting of an ethereal complex nature shown by the wine. There are lots of those wines that have been scored in the high nineties.

The ironic part is that 2015 Little Pawn chardonnay is more than nothing “negative” but outstanding and admired by yours truly. It should have a score somewhere in the nineties. In fact have been trying to showcase the quality of Checkmate chardonnays to some of the top sommeliers in Paris. In February 2017 we showed their first vintage 2013s at Le Gabriel La Reserve & Epicure at Le Bristol against some Lafon & Domaine Roulot Premier Cru Meursaults. Checkmate were all good but softer and less balanced than these comparable white Burgundies. How would they stack up against Grand Cru of Corton-Charlemagne & the Montrachets? 2014 and more recent vintages of Checkmate are very much improved and have tightened up considerably with a resting period to come together in stainless tanks before bottling. Excellent chardonnay but 100? Take the score with a grain of salt please. Some wines that are scored 100 initially don’t remain there. Celebrated critic Robert M. Parker gave 1975 red Chateau La Mission Haut Brion a perfect 100 out of the gate as “one of the very greatest young wines I have ever tasted.” Later updates lowered it to 99 & 98 because “it seems certain that the enormous tannins of this wine are never going to be totally assimilated.” Wine is a living thing forever evolving in the bottle. Will this chardonnay warrant 100 when you taste it or will it have changed for better (no room to give it a higher score) or worse? Your scribe has been most fortunate to experience many if not most of the very best wine treasures ever produced. Not many of them warrant 100. IMHO 100 needs to be used more sparingly. We are becoming more and more concerned with what we call the “score creep” of ever higher scores being pushed by both the wine scorer and the winery for their increased recognition on social media. Be careful! Oh well maybe 1961 Chateau Palmer deserves 99.

Have you tasted a wine that merits a score of 100 in your opinion?

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Ask Sid: What is jerepiko?

May 22nd, 2019
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 I was served after dinner an an interesting sweet Jerepiko. What is that?

Question: I was served after dinner an an interesting sweet Jerepiko. What is that?

Answer: Must have been a South African Cape connection there! An interesting wine (red or white) that is produced without any fermentation. Red uses skin contact. Grape juice is fortified with spirits (that gives the alcohol level) resulting in a different rather unique alcoholic “grape juice” wine – sort of port-like. Sometimes see it spelled Jerepigo or Jerepiga (in Portugal). Fun use as an aperitif or digestif.

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Robert M Parker Delightful in Baltimore!

May 20th, 2019

Sid Cross Robert Parker

Some of us really miss those scholarly wine reviews by Bob Parker. He set a pretty high bar for many decades for those now taking up this difficult challenge in a much expanded world wine market. He is officially retiring from Robert Parker Wine Advocate as announced by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, the publication’s editor-in-chief on their website this month. Articles are coming forth saluting him including Jamie Goode at plus one by Felicity Carter in Meininger’s Wine Business International here. A few us just enjoyed two dinners with him and his charming smart wife Pat in Baltimore with wines picked by them from their own personal cellar served at two top restaurants all with a charitable focus for The US Navy Seals. What a treat to see them both again. Bob received a most deserving Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Bacchus for his many contributions. He was most delightful during both dinners and truly moved by it all while deflecting a lot of the inspiration and credit to Pat. They will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this July. He modestly stated that he was in the right place at the right time starting out in 1978 with no social media to jump on him for his mistakes. He strongly felt you had to believe in what you were doing with constant perseverance always with a vision of the long range view of things. What a success story!

Interesting choice of restaurants where the Parker’s knew the owners, chefs, and especially their long serving sommeliers so very well. Boy were we ever treated like royalty. Vito in Cockeysville in the outskirts with Owner Vito Petronelli, Chef Luca Pesci, and sommelier Nezam Mojarrad were brilliant as were co-owners Chef Cindy Wolf & Wine Director Tony Foreman and brigade at Charleston established in 1997. The menus show the food courses and wine matchings. Wonderful large unique format (12-15 litres) 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto with a special label dedicated to Parker that had developed a rich full smooth texture at 30 years but so fresh and classic too was a star. Surprised also at how vibrant the hot vintage 1997 Barolo Le Vigne from Sandrone showed on a perfect plateau of enjoyment in double magnum. Your scribe poked fun at Bob serving 1990 Grand Puy Lacoste a mutual fav chateau of us both. Reminded him how his first book gave the 1970 only 74 points but the next edition (after prodding by me) moved it as bottle variable but to a score of 90. That vintage was made by gourmand Raymond Dupin but of course even better since taken over by Jean-Eugene Borie & son Xavier starting with the 1978 vintage. The mags of 1988 Climens were magnificent combining balanced acidity with richness. Interesting Bordeaux impressed the second night with 2003 Montrose displaying good potential though still young but 2011 Sine Qua Non both the Grenache & Syrah received more split decisions with that stronger jammy 15.5 alcohol when paired with the lamb course. Bottle variation on rich 1989 La Tour Blanche with one fresh lighter colour more complex while another darker and tiring more advanced.

A rousing cheer of thanks to Bob & Pat for their contributions over so many years and pleased to report to all fans around the world that they both are well and thriving in Baltimore!


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Ask Sid: Any fish market finds in New York?

May 15th, 2019
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fish market new york city

Question: Any fish market finds this month in New York?

Answer: The New Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point in The Bronx has an interesting wide selection. However the one that made the biggest impression on me this trip was The Lobster Place in the Chelsea Market on Ninth Avenue (between 15 & 16th streets). So popular around lunch and dinner time for quick service at their Cull & Pistol raw bar for oysters, fresh sushi,  steamed lobster plus more selections. Lots of East Coast oysters from cheapest ($2.30) Oyster Ponds (Orient Bay NY) plus John’s River from Damariscotta River from Maine & Nonesuch from Scarborough River in Maine but also West Coast more expensive ($3.70) Kumamoto from Humboldt Bay California – and even Fanny Bay from Baynes Sound in British Columbia Canada. Amazing fish filets to take away and cook yourself too. Fresh Wild Cod from Iceland $19.95 per pound, Wild Halibut from Nova Scotia $26.95, and frozen Chilean Sea Bass from the Falkland Islands $37.95. Most eye opening was the farmed choices for Dover Sole from Spain $19.95, and from Turkey for Dorade $7.95 & Bronzini $8.50. Definitely a place to check out!

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