IN THIS ISSUE
STAYING PUT IN MILAN
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
ANDAZ and ALDO SOHM WINE BAR
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
WINES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
STAYING PUT IN MILAN
By John Mariani
Il Duomo (photo by John Mariani)
Though Milan is usually a
tick down from Rome, Venice and Florence on
tourists’ list of must-see Italian cities, it is
in fact one of the grandest and possibly the most
civilized city in Italy. I shall write about
Milan’s rich history, elegant culture and
wonderful trattorias at another time, so for the
moment let me concentrate on where to stay in this
wealthy Lombardian city, which now has a passel of
the finest deluxe properties in Italy.
PRINCIPE DI SAVOIA
of the grandest of the old hotels in Milan is the Principe di
the broad Piazza della Repubblica. I hadn’t
been back in years, so I was enchanted to see how a
hotel that had for decades lived on its historic
reputation had been transformed in such a careful
way as to maintain its original grandeur while
adding 21st century
glamour to the public and private rooms. Restored
and brightened by designer Thierry Despond, its
lobby and hallways were polished and softly lighted,
its rooms, like the Ambassador Suite in the photo
above, not just freshened but wholly reconceived by
marrying classic good taste with every amenity.
There’s a gorgeously seductive swimming pool, a
state-of-the-art spa and fitness center and a
beautiful tea room.
There is also complimentary limo service
to the city’s center. (Breakfast is not included in
the room price.)
PARK HYATT MILAN
The tasting menus at
VUN is €115-€150; a la carte, first courses
€30-€45; pastas €25-30; main courses €42-€45.
PARIGI Corso di Porta
Corso di Porta Nuova, 1
HOTEL MILANO SCALA
NEW YORK CORNER
Small Is Beautiful: Two for Midtown
By John Mariani
ALDO SOHM WINE BAR
151 West 51st Street (near Fifth Avenue)
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is open
Mon.-Fri. for lunch and dinner; Sat. for dinner.
THE SHOP AT ANDAZ FIFTH AVENUE
of a traditional restaurant than Aldo Sohm Wine
Bar, The Shop, located just across from the NY
Public Library, is about the same size and has
something of the same ambiance, via a strong use
of wood panels, overhead lighting, sofas, and
And it does seem like a place to come by
before theater or for a light meal on the run or
if you’re staying in the hotel upstairs.
range from "peaches and cream" sweet corn risotto,
Pernod, tarragon and mascarpone ($23) to a
terrific crispy pig’s ear salad. Spaghetti cacio e pepe—pure
Roman comfort food—is so simple that it is
extremely easy to screw up, but Mr. Santoro’s is
textbook perfect, not soupy, not dry, impeccably
al dente with just enough cheese and black pepper
to give it zing. The winter menu now
also includes dishes (I have not tried) like
The winter menu now also includes dishes (I have not tried) likechestnut Soup with walnut crumble and cider cream; pork ragoût with tagliatelle and Parmesan, and a venison burger with braised shortrib, cheddar cheese and onion on a poppyseed brioche.
I’m asked often enough what wines I’d want to
have if stranded on a desert island--which are the
same wines I'd love to serve for Christmas and New
Year's dinners. I always have my answer ready: Just my
favorites. I don’t want trophy wines or antiques. I
want wines I can thoroughly enjoy right now and for
several years to come. I want them to go well with
those parameters in mind, here’s my dream list of
six wonderful wines to be stranded with from
appetizers through dessert.
Edoardo Valentini Trebbiano
d’Abruzzo—Trebbiano is a workhorse grape in
Italy and not much in favor these days. But
that’s because only a rare, even eccentric,
winemaker like Valentini knows how to produce a
great wine from this over-planted varietal. I
remember the first time I tasted his Trebbiano
d’Abruzzo, at a seafood restaurant on the Adriatic.
The waiter brought a ten-year-old vintage I tried to
refuse. But he insisted, and I was astonished how
this usually negligible white varietal had such
marvelous fruit and acid in perfect tandem. It just
exploded in my mouth. And age—usually the killer for
Italian whites—had given it complexity and
fish it is a nonpareil white wine. A vintage like
2007 should cost about $90-$100.
choosing a pricey red Burgundy, why not the more
prestigious Romanée-Conti? Sentiment, perhaps. Years and years
ago I grew to prefer La Tâche, a Grand Cru owned by
the same Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that owns
Romanée-Conti, as well as Richebourg and Romanée-St.
of these will do nicely, but for me La Tâche has
more of the taste of what I like about Vosne-Romanée
vineyards—a silkiness of texture, a refinement of
tannins and fruit, and enormous finesse at every
point on the palate. The 1990 is drinking
beautifully now and will for years to come. Expect
to pay at least $4,500 for a bottle.
Georges de la Tour Private Reserve—If
only more California wineries emulate this glorious
red wine from Beaulieu Vineyard, founded by
Frenchman George de la Tour in 1900! It has
long set the standard by which to judge the
character of the finest cabernet sauvignons of any
region in the world. It is always big but never
massive, full of California sun but never grapey,
complex throughout with a long, walnut-and-dried
cherry finish. And it is always in balance and,
unlike so many Napa Valley cabs, it can go on
forever. I’ll take a case of 1982. Much to my
amazement, prices for BV, even for the 1982 and
wines of the 1990s, stay steady at about $80-$100.
Warre's Vintage Port—To me Port is dessert, although I think it’s also the best cheese wine in the world. Attempts by other countries at capturing the beauty, richness, nutty sweetness, and magnificence of a vintage Port have been futile. They lack the depth and fineness of the Portuguese original from the Douro River vineyards. I’ll gladly drink a Tawny or even a lightweight Ruby any evening, but if I want to settle in for the night, an old Vintage from Warre's, say 1955 or 1977, would be all I could ask for. Anything younger wouldn’t be ready or right. The ’77 might still be found for about $90-$100.
AND THE LORD SAID UNTO HIS PEOPLE,
LONGEST INTRODUCTION TO
LONGEST INTRODUCTION TO
“A very long time ago, when I was hustling tarot-card readings before a Grateful Dead show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., one of my patrons — a big, bearded biker — handed me a wad of crumpled dollar bills and a map. `If you’re going to the next show in Rochester,' he said, `you can camp at this guy’s house.' The next afternoon, my friend and I arrived at the house, pulled our backpacks out of the trunk of the car and rang the doorbell. The guy in Rochester, it turned out, had no idea that some biker at a Dead show in Saratoga had been handing out maps to his house. But sure, he said, we could pitch our tent. He made us coffee. More strangers — all with the same map — filed in throughout the afternoon. By evening, a small shantytown had materialized in his backyard.”—Rosie Schaap, “Holy Smoke,” NY Times (Dec. 14, 2014)
Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Reliable Old Friends
by Cristina Mariani-May
Earlier this month I dedicated this entire space to the top ten reasons to enjoy Rosa Regale for the holiday season. But if man must live on more than bread alone, there is plenty of room for other wines this time of year.
Fizz the Season – no other time of year lends itself to bubbly more than this. In Italy, which long ago mastered the art of comforting hospitality, Prosecco is the ultimate hospitalian wine. Many restaurants offer a glass of Prosecco to arriving guests. I like to point out that prosecco is like Champagne in that it is named for the unique part of the world it hails from and has bubbles, but most of the time the similarities end there. Prosecco is not typically complex, austere or the drink of millionaires; it is the light-hearted bourgeois bubbly, to borrow a French term.
Maschio is one of the leading producers of Prosecco. They offer two types on the US market: Maschio Brut: a straightforwardly dry, crisp, clean wine that is very reasonably priced and also available in 187ml “stocking stuffer” sizes. But Maschio’s masterpiece is Maschio dei Cavalieri, or the knights/cavaliers/gentlemenly Prosecco. It is the ne plus ultra of prosecco – a Superiore from the heartland Valdobiaddene and within that from the prestigious Rive di Colbertaldo subzone. A smooth and silky bubbly that just exudes elegance. And is still a bargain!
If you are a Champagne lover, then consider what Italy can do with wine fermented in the bottle as our French cousins do. Banfi Brut is a blend of the classic champenoise grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, fermented in the bottle with some additional bottle aging before release. It yields the yeasty, toasty flavors of its French counterpart.
Prefer a little color? Consider Cuvee Aurora Rose, a 100% Pinot Noir that takes its blush from brief contact with the grape skins during fermentation (don’t we all blush from a little skin contact?). It is pale pink and subtle, dry and round.
Want to keep even closer to Italian traditions in sparkling wine? Then try some dry Lambrusco. I can suggest two to start, depending on your mood.
Feeling dark, moody and deep? Try some OttocentoNero from Albinea Canali. This opaque, bone dry, austere Lambrusco will not only help you ponder the true meaning of the season, but cut through rich holiday foods like a laser.
Feeling bright and perky? Then opt for FB Lambrusco, which creatively stands for ”Fermented in the Bottle.” This is made from the Sorbara varietal of Lambrusco, which has low color and high acid, making it a bright light. While it is, as the name more than subtly suggests, fermented in the bottle, the sediment is not removed – making it less like Champagne and more like a Weiss Bier. Each glass will be slightly cloudier than the last but more intensely flavored. This is a nod to the “Metodo Ancestrale” or ancestral method that the farmers used to make their wines – bottled in the cool of early winter when some natural sugars remain in the wine, only to ferment fully dry as spring temperatures warmed the cellar and re-started fermentation. The ultimate Vino Naturale!!!
Whatever form of bubbles you choose, my family and I wish you the most sparkling of holidays!
Cristina Mariani is not
related by family or through business with John Mariani,
publisher of this newsletter
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