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Bread and Amarone

March 5, 2013 15 comments

Puzzled by the title? Don’t be. This is simply the post about our last Valentine’s Day experience – yes, somewhat belated, but still worth sharing.

Let’s start with the picture. No pink hearts here, only roses, but take a look – what is that lurking in the fuzzy background?

DSC_0182 Roses and Champagne

Yep, a Champagne glass, the Tulip! Before we get to the bread and Amarone, let’s talk about Champagne Sparkling wine. By the way, this political correctness is very tiring. Champagne is much faster to say and to write, but no-ooo, Champagne only comes from Champagne, and everything else should be called a Sparkling Wine. It is two words versus one, and takes twice as much time to say and read! And the worst part is that the Sparkling wine in very many cases tastes much better than Champagne, and don’t even get me going on the pricing… Okay, sorry, unintentional rant, let’s cut it out and go back to what I actually wanted to talk about.

DSC_0163 Roederer 2003My definite preference is to start a holiday, especially the one like Valentine’s Day, with the glass of Cham, errr, Sparkling Wine. It creates mood. It says (loudly) “Celebrate!”. Lightness and effervesce of the bubbles simply picks you up. So this past Valentine’s day our choice of bubbly (yes, jargon – but  – it is one word! and it means any sparkling wine, Champagne or not) was 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut Anderson Valley California. Perfectly structured, perfectly balanced, with full harmony both on the nose and the palate. Fresh bread, yeast, toasted apple, perfect acidity, long-living bubbles – all in all, one of the best sparkling wines I ever tasted. Drinkability: 8+

Now, to the bread! Let me not be original – I’m simple going to repeat the note (a huge Thank You, rather) of appreciation which is being expressed all over the blogosphere – the useful content, the advice, information, ideas which are shared by the bloggers are simply staggering. About a month ago I read the blog post by one of the fellow bloggers, Kim from She Wines Sometimes (if you are not following her blog – fix this mistake right now). The post was talking about making the bread! At home! In a simple way!

I have to admit – I love bread. When in France, I can survive on just baguette alone (okay, throw in a little cheese, will you?). But baking the bread at home was not anything I would fathom in my wildest dreams. Until I read Kim’s blog post. It sounded so easy – I had no choice, but to say – this is it, I’m making the bread!

When it comes to baking, I dread the precision of the recipes. I consider myself to be an okay cook – I can substitute ingredients, I can come up with my own recipes, where I can measure all the ingredients with very precise “I think this is enough” accuracy. It doesn’t work like that in baking. Replace baking powder with baking soda and you might end up with a complete flap instead of a good tasting product – and the same goes for many other ingredients. This is why I usually think about baking as something better left to the professionals – but then again, all the professionals start somewhere, don’t they?

I’m not going to repeat the recipe here – here is the link to the original. Of course I ended up making some mistakes. The recipe calls specifically for King Arthur bread flour. I didn’t print the recipe before going to the store, and of course I ended up with the regular King Arthur flour. At first I even forgot to buy the yeast – and the second trip to the store was in order. But, you know what? All this doesn’t matter. Because the bread tasted AMAZING!

DSC_0158 Bread

And the smell of the freshly baked bread when you just walk into the house – it is simply something heavenly (and pretty much priceless). The only thing I need to add here – Thank You Kim!

DSC_0185 Amarone CorkAnd now, to the wine. Not just any wine – Amarone! If you followed this blog for some duration of time, you know that I’m always on the lookout for the perfect Amarone, trying to replicate my moment of bliss smelling succulent raisins and tasting perfectly dry and powerful wine (here you can find a collection of my Amarone posts ). That “perfect wine” was 1997 Le Ragose Amarone, which I tasted in 2004, so the wine was 7 years old. And now it was Le Ragose Amarone again.

Looking at the cork, can you try to guess how the wine was? Did you write down your answer? Okay, good.

We opened the bottle of 1990 Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella (so, did you guess correctly?). I have some experience opening old wines, and when you open a bottle of wine which is 23 years old, you expect trouble. I had my double-prong bottle opener ready, but when I removed the foil and looked at the cork, it appeared to be as fresh as it would be on the new bottle. And it actually was – the standard waiter corkscrew worked just fine!

DSC_0167 Le Ragose Amarone

And the wine was outstanding. No, it didn’t replicate my experience with 1997 – this was a lot more mature wine. But it had a perfect nose of dried fruit – not only raisins, but probably some dried cherries, fig, prunes. The palate showed mature beauty, with the fruit which is tamed, but still has perfect acidity to make it all work together – there was more dried fruit on the palate, more cherries, more prunes, leather and earthiness. Definitely was a great wine, and as an added bonus – it was only 14% ABV! All the modern Amarone are trying to exceed 16% by now, and one of the geniuses of the winemaking recently even told me that you need high alcohol to preserve the wine… ok, stop. Sorry. One rant per post. This one will have to wait for another time. All in all this 1990 Le Ragose was a great experience, so let’s live it at that. Drinkability: 9-.

That’s all I have for you for today folks. It is too late to ask about your Valentine’s day experiences by now, but did you drink any amazing wines lately? Or made bread : ) ? Cheers!

Impromptu Reflection On My Favorite Subject – Amarone

August 21, 2012 2 comments

This blog post was not planned for today – nope, had totally different ideas in mind. And then the comment arrived on one of my older posts (click here to see it). And the comment was more of a question, which definitely stroke a chord – someone was looking for that perfect Amarone moment, exactly the same way as I was trying to replicate mine

Yes, I responded to the comment, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to reflect on the magic of Amarone – and practical impossibility of re-creating that magic “at will”. That full-bodied, perfectly dry but rich, voluptuous and perfectly balanced (you will have to forgive my use of double-perfect wording) which I experienced only once (I’m talking again about 1997 Le Ragose Amarone) – was almost never replicated in any of the wines I had. The only two which come close were 2001 Masi Mazzano Amarone Classico, and believe it or not, 2000 Carlisle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I have one wine on my “must try” list – Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone – which must be magical based on what the others are saying, but this wine would really require a [very] generous sponsor…

Out of curiosity, I decided to check on the classic Amarone at the Wine Spectator web site – there are only 11 Amarone which have “classic” rating (95-100 points) throughout all the years:

Wine Vintage Score
Sorted By Score
Release Price
 Michele Castellani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Cinque Stelle 2005 96 $105
 Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella 2004 96 $NA
 Lorenzo Begali Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Ca’ Bianca 1997 95 $NA
 Lorenzo Begali Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Ca’ Bianca 2004 95 $70
 Michele Castellani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Cinque Stelle 2003 95 $64
 Michele Castellani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Cinque Stelle 2007 95 $75
 Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella 1998 95 $480
 Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella 1997 95 $370
 Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella 2003 95 $425
 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano 1999 95 $120
 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1988 95 $NA

As you can see, Wine Spectator is not much of a help…

Have you ever experienced the magic of Amarone? Do you have a favorite? Let me know! Cheers!

Searching For The Perfect Amarone

August 15, 2011 8 comments
Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella 2004

Le Ragose Amarone Della Valpolicella 2004

Let me confess: I have a wine weakness. This weakness is called Amarone. Ever since I tried Amarone for the first time, which happened in 2004 when I was taking Windows on the World Wine School classes, I kept searching for the same experience. Amarone wine which we tried during the class was absolutely amazing – it had a sweet rich nose of raisins, and powerful dry body of muscular wine. Once you experience something like that, you want to do it again and again. The only small issue left – finding that perfect bottle.

Problem is  – Amarone is not a cheap wine. Of course it is not super-expensive, like first growth Bordeaux, but at about $60 per bottle, it is way outside of my daily wine budget. That complicates the search, as at such price point Amarone really becomes a “special occasion wine”.

Number of different Amarone later, you can guess that I still had high respect for that wine, as I designated it as one of the “best kept secrets of the wine world” in the post written for The Art of Life Magazine (you can find this pots here). For that blog post, I tried three different wines from Vaona Pegrandi – starting from Valpolicella Ripasso, a “poor man’s Amarone”, and then two of the actual Amarone wines – all good, but not what I was looking for. That forced me to dig out the notebook from that Windows on the World wine school classes, and find out that Amarone I felt in love with was 1997 Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.

Shortly after, with help of my friend Zak, I was holding the bottle of Le Ragose Amarone in my hands. Other than the fact that this bottle was from 2004 vintage, everything looked exactly the same. Except one little detail – 1997 version had 14% alcohol, 2004 – 15.5%. Finally I got to open the bottle. Swirl, sniff – practically nothing. More of the swirl and sniff – still not much. May be a hint of sweetness, but absolutely none of the jammy raisins and dried fruit, which were stuck in my memory forever from that 2004 tasting. On the palate, the wine had more of the dark fruit and may be hint of a fruit jam, but alcohol was not integrated and not balanced, hitting you after the initial taste was subsiding. Nothing changed on the second day – same limited nose, and same unbalanced wine on the palate.

I don’t know what happened with Amarone during those 7 years (interestingly enough, in 2004 I tasted wine from 1997, and in 2011 it was the wine from 2004, so both times the wine was 7 years old). Actually, it doesn’t matter what happened – I want the old Amarone back. The new one has no soul, it is simply one of many unbalanced wines, high in alcohol.

Well, I will keep searching – being an eternal optimist, I will keep looking for that perfect Amarone. True, I might be running simply after the memories which can not be brought back – but hey, at the very least, I will keep trying – new wines, it is. And if you experienced that amazing Amarone wine – any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I might even share that special bottle with you! Cheers!

Categories: Amarone, Experiences Tags: ,
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