To Our Customers:
Once again it is holiday time. When I was young it didn’t come fast enough, now it comes too quickly! This is a newsletter packed with outstanding wines and new food stuffs. My travels this year have been fruitful with interesting items for you, our discriminating customers. I hope you enjoy them. There is also a new lineup of things waiting in the wings for 2012.
Our Best Wishes for a serene and pleasant Holiday Season and a hope filled and peaceful 2012.
Intasko Premium Dried Figs are produced at a cooperative founded in Turkey in 1915. They are perhaps the most elegant presentation of dried figs in the world. White skinned Smyrna figs are harvested and then sun dried. The stem end and the “eye” end are cut off. The fig is next formed into a rectangle, wrapped in cellophane and then wrapped in foil and packed into a charming metal box. The size of each fig is 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Produced from the summer 2011 harvest, there are 20 wrapped figs to the 500g box.
Intasko figs are handcrafted dried fruits which are truly exceptional. Golden skinned when dried, the Smyrna fig has a pretty ruby color on the inside with tiny, yellowish seeds. This is the natural color of the variety. All natural, with a balanced sweet/not sweet flavor, it is a dried fruit which is satisfyingly sweet tasting yet not sugary. Tasting an Intasko fig, you can see why figs were and are considered such a great delicacy.
A splendid end to a meal would be a couple of Intasko figs, some Pistacchi di Bronte and a glass of aged Marsala, oloroso sherry, tawny port, Bual or Malmsey Madeira, Vin Santo from Italy or Greece, and Australian or Portuguese liqueur Muscat .
Intasko Premium Dried Figs 20 figs in a 500g tin $17.99 tin (#2800)
Panettone Time: Loison and Bardi Favorites
Again, for this holiday season, we have our Panettone, Italy’s Christmas bread, from our two favorite producers back in stock. Panettone is the symbol of Christmas for Italians. There are no new variations this year, just the tried and true favorites. We have kept prices for this year about the same as last year, in spite of the poor dollar/euro exchange.
Produced by a noted Piemontese bakery, Bardi Panettone is the classic example of the cake. All Bardi Panettone are1000 g (2.2 lbs.) in size.
Bardi Panettone Alto Traditional tall shape, candied citrus and raisins, boxed $26.99 (#2801)
Bardi panettone Basso Traditional low shape, hand formed, citrus and raisins, boxed $29.99 (#2802)
Bardi Nocciolato Low shape, hazelnut glaze, citrus fruits and raisins, boxed $29.99 (#2803)
Bardi Senza Canditi Tall shape, no candied fruit, just raisins, wrapped $26.99 (#2804)
Bardi Fondente Low shape, chocolate bits and glazed, fruit and orange flower, almonds, wrapped $31.99 (#2805)
Bardi Pandoro Tall, star shaped golden bread, no fruit, boxed $27.99 (#2806)
Loison Panettone Al Torcolato Maculan basso shape, 1000g, ivory paper wrapped $37.59 (#2807)
Loison Panettone All'albicocca e Zenzero basso shape, 1000g, boxed $33.99 (#2808)
Loison Panettone Al Chinotto basso shape, 1000g, boxed $38.99 (#2809)
Loison Panettone Amarene basso shape, 1000g, boxed $33.29 (#2810)
Loison Panettone Ai Fichi basso shape, 1000g, boxed $29.99 (#2811)
Loison Panettone Classico 1476 Latta basso shape, 750g decorative tin $29.99 (#2812)
Loison Panettone Noel basso shape, 1000g boxed $35.89 (#2813)
Loison Panettone al Mandarino di Ciaculi basso shape, 1000g, boxed $37.99 (#2814)
Loison Panettoncini Tall shape, 100g, boxed The smallest panettone made. $8.99 (#2815)
Loison Panettone Classico Tall shape, 5 kilos, Splendid for a party. $134.00 (#2816)
Loison Panettone Classico Tall shape, 10 kilos, For an even bigger party! The largest made $237.00 (#2817)
Loison Biscotteria Elegant box of 6 different flavors of cookies, individually wrapped, $29.99 (#2818)
It's an Odd Numbered Year: It's Pistacchi di Bronte Time
Only in odd numbered years do we get the famous brilliant green Pistacchi di Bronte, or Bronte Pistachios from the western foothills of Sicily’s Mt. Etna. There, the growers remove the infloresences in the even numbered years given the peculiar alternate bearing growing cycle of Bronte pistachios. In order to have a crop large enough to harvest, the trees are allowed to produce only every other year, the odd numbered ones.
This year we have 250gram aluminum bags of these wonderful nuts. They are packaged in aluminum to prevent them from being light struck and losing their vibrant emerald green color. These are “spellati” pistachios, where the thin pellicule surrounding the cracked nutmeat is also removed. They are for eating out of hand, toasting lightly in the oven and served with vintage port, or used in desserts or savory dishes. They should be kept tightly sealed and stored in the refrigerator once opened. You will probably never eat a better pistachio.
Pistachio di Bronte spellati 250g aluminum bag $27.99 each (#2819)
Perhaps the Prettiest Food Book in Some Time: Menus for Chez Panisse
2011 is the fortieth anniversary of Chez Panisse, Berkeley’s iconic restaurant. I think more ink has flowed over this fact so far that Alice Waters must be overwhelmed. And it is deservedly so. But there is another factor to look at with Chez Panisse. It is a work which is ongoing and done in remarkable silence with great artistry-- the Menus of Chez Panisse.
Since the beginning in 1971, these little works of art in themselves, were done by Patricia Curtan, who continues to do special menus. Her book Menus of Chez Panisse is now out. It is a truly remarkable collection of small works of art that both entice your eyes and act as the slate for some remarkable meals. Pat chose the menus herself, wrote the text herself, and printed the original artwork, creating it herself.
When all is said and done, Menus of Chez Panisse will remain as a testament to how we ate at one time and what its description looked like. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is beautiful!
Menus for Chez Panisse, Patricia Curtan, 175pp, Princeton Architectural Press $36.00 +tax(#2820)
The Legendary Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce from Phu Quoc Island, Viet Nam
Red Boat Fish Sauce 40 N is the name of the only production of the legendary Nuoc Mam Nhi fish sauce from Vietnam to be found in this country. Fish sauce, called Nam Pla, Patis, and others are made in Thailand or the Phillipines, but usually not only out of fish and salt. In western cuisine, fish sauce is now considered a semi-forgotten culinary relic of Roman garum. But fish sauce is a vibrant and necessary part of Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Even Japan has a fish sauce, the rare Uogashi Shoyu, the original “soy” sauce which Corti Brothers imports.
Vietnam has long been the producer of the legendary Nuoc Mam; its production on the islands of Phu Quoc considered the best produced in the country and until now unavailable. Although, there are a lot of sauces labeled Nuoc Mam, most are made in Thailand or else where. With Red Boat you are assured of the genuine product.
On the Red Boat label you will note the characters “40°N.” This is the industry measure for the grams of nitrogen per liter of fish sauce calculated as protein. The higher the number, the richer the sauce. The ingredients are only two: cá com--the fresh black anchovy fished in the area--and sea salt. Nothing else.
“But why should I buy fish sauce?” you may well ask. Just to be able to experience the lift it gives to basic ingredients like simply cooked vegetables, in place of salt. A bit added to tomato sauce improves its “tomato-y-ness.” Use it in place of anchovies in any recipe calling for them. Then, use your imagination. It is what cooking is about.
Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N $5.49 250ml bottle (#2821) $32.00
Best of Show Olive Oils from Australia's Cobram Estate:
Hojiblanca and Picual
The Best of Show oils refers to the fact that these oils won a Gold Medal, Best of Class, and Best of Show for their respective class at the Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition. They were both produced by Leandro Ravetti, an Argentine oil technician working for Boundary Bend Olives in Australia. These are the Reserve oils produced by Boundary Bend, sold as Cobram Estate from Victoria State.
Milled in late April, 2011, these are really splendid oils in two types. The light fruity type (Hojiblanca) and the medium fruity type (Picual). Both show the effect of meticulous milling, but even better, the effect of proper harvesting. For anyone wanting to taste olive varietals we seem not to want to plant in California, here is your chance to taste almost perfect examples of each.
Cobram Estate Reserve Hojiblance $24.99 500ml (#2822) $134.00 case/6 (#2822C)
Cobram Estate Reserve Picual $24.99 500ml (#2823) $134.00 case/6 (#2823C)
When Wine Wont Do, But You Want Something From Grapes: Patritti
Grape Juice from Australia
At times, when alcohol won’t do, you can use another grape product, grape juice. Grape juice is a controversial thing because most wine making grape varieties have very little intrinsic taste. Flavor comes from the skin, and when juice is made, there is very little skin contact. However, with blending of varieties, interesting flavors can be achieved.
Patritti is the name of a producer in the Australian Riverland, the area watered by the Murray River. Patritti produces several kinds of grape juice with lovely flavors and colors. With over 30 years of experience in this production, Patritti juices are packaged in 750ml bottles that are dressed like champagne, but are non-alcoholic.
Patritti Dark Grape Juice: Blended from Rubired, Shiraz, and Grenache.$7.99 +crv* (#2824)
Patritti White Grape Juice: Blended from Sultana, Colombard, and Chardonnay $7.99 +crv* (#2825)
Patritti Canada Muscat Grape Juice: Produced from the variety of the same name, Canada Muscat is a hybrid created in 1928 of Muscat Hamburg and Hubbard Seedless, created in N.Y.State. It went to Australia probably via UCDavis in the 1970s. Limited production. $7.99 +crv* (#2826)
Patritti Shiraz Grape Juice: Produced from a select parcel of Shiraz, it displays the varietal character of that particular shiraz. $7.99 +crv* (#2827)
In September 2011, I was asked to participate in the First Qvevri Symposium in Georgia. The proceedings have been filmed and will be on our web site. With more than 8,000 years of wine growing history, the nation of Georgia in the Caucasus region, bordering the Black Sea, is a veritable treasure trove of grape varieties and wines which we in the West never hear of, never think about, or rarely consider. But things are changing.
The idea of fermenting and aging wine in clay vessels has attracted several producers outside of Georgia, namely in Italy and Slovenia, to produce wines using them. Called QVEVRI, (pronounced qUevri), these vessels are buried upright in the ground and are used both for fermentation and aging of both white and red varieties. In fact, they have created a new color palette for wine--the color orange, or as some call it, amber. This color comes from fermenting white grapes on their skins. Bottle age is definitely desirable with these wines.
Georgia is making a name for itself by using unique techniques such as authocthonous varieties--about which we know little or nothing--skin contact fermentation with white varieties, and then fermentation and aging in qvevri of both white and red varieties. With an ampelographical patrimony of over 500 varieties, surely there will be some varieties that will attract our attention. But if you do not buy them when available, how will you ever know about them?
2010 Pheasant's Tears Shavkapito 12.5 % (Kartli region) Floral scented, roselike, mouth filling, grippy. Needs time. $19.99 750ml (#2829)
A Nice Bunch of Barbera: New Wines from New Producers
In June 2011, I tasted at the California State Fair wine judging, and my panel tasted about half of the Barbera entered. Some I awarded a gold medal right off the bat. Of these, some continued to win and became Double Gold then Best of Class. It is some of these wines I want to tell you about.
Other wines I tasted on June 12, at California’s first Barbera Festival, held in Amador County with 80 California Barbera producers showing their wines. Some were winners from the Fair. Some were new producers that are making stunningly good Barbera.
It is presumed to have originated in the Monferrato (Gallesio 1839) and was called vitis vinifera montisferratensis (Abbot Milano, 1839). It is found in various regions of Italy and is the most important Italian variety cultivated outside Italy. Not a tannic variety, but an acidic one, it has a fragrant, fruity, wine-y perfume. Excessive production lowers quality; this has been a problem both in Italy and California, where the variety was used more for its workaday possibilities than its actual quality.
Beemer Winery Barbera 2009 Wine: El Dorado 15.5% Pretty red color, varietal character of notable intensity. Some tannin from about 10% dolcetto. Excellent acidity and fine body. $24.79 750ml ( #2942)
Gugliemo Barbera 2008 Wine: Santa Clara Valley 13.5% Palish color, has a Pinot noir character unusual in Barbera. A delicate but delicious style of Barbera $27.99 750ml (#2943)
Muscardini Barbera 2009 Wine: Redwood Valley, Pauli Ranch 14.4% Red color, lively acidity, juicy character, mouth watering. $22.79 750ml (#2944)
Rosa D'oro Barbera 2009 Wine: Clear Lake. Lake County. 13.8% Light red color, full, with slightly lowish acid and a ripe flavor. $14.99 750ml (#2945)
Andia Barbera 2008 Wine: Sierra Foothills, Amador County 14.5% Good color, fragrant scent and flavor. Good acidity and freshness. $22.49 750ml (#2946)
Andis Barbera 2010 Wine: Amador County.14.5% Color, perfume, and flavor. A delicate wine with a joyous flavor that just begs to be drunk. At Barbera Festival, I thought this a truly delicious wine. $22.49 750ml (#2947)
2009 Karmère Winery Barbera 2009 Wine: Empress Julie Ann, Shenandoah Valley. 14.8% Perfumey, fresh, full varietal character. Rich style. $23.99 750 ml (#2948)
A Unique Wine: Mézes Mály Furmint 2009 - A Dry Tokaji Wine
Mézes Mály (pronounced mEzezsh my) is a vineyard of 19 hectares in Tarcal village, in Hungary’s Tokaj area. It is one of the two Great First Growth vineyards in Tokaji’s historical 1700 classification. In 2009, the Royal Tokaji Wine Company produced the first ever dry wine from the Furmint grapes grown on this vineyard. Unique, never produced before, a 2/3 hectare plot was grown specifically to make a dry wine. (Growing grapes for making the famed Aszu wines is different from making dry wines.) The loess top soil of the vineyard gives a lovely honey-like floral character to its wine. This vineyard parcel belongs to Hugh Johnson, the world’s most famous wine writer.
Produced from Furmint, the major variety of Tokaji, the others are Muskotály and Hárslevelü. This 2009 Mézes Mály was harvested at the end of October. Fermentation was done with selected yeast, and the wine fermented and matured in new Hungarian oak from the Zemplen forest for 11 months. Its alcohol is 13.5%, sugar 7.1g/L, and total acidity .57%. The total production of 1,592 –750ml bottles was bottled on 17 November 2010.
This wine is sufficiently outstanding and rare that its sale is very limited. There are two wine merchants in the world offering the wine: One is Corti Brothers in Sacramento, the other is Berry Brothers & Rudd in London.
Mézes Mály Furmint 2009 shows the lovely floral character of its grape origin. Its aging in new oak has given it great complexity, without woodiness. It is well balanced, delicate in taste, yet rich with great length on the palate. This Mézes Mály was intentionally produced to be a dry wine, a sort of “Le Montrachet” of Tokaji, if you will. If you want to have only one dry Furmint in your cellar, it should be this!
Another aspect of Mézes Mály is Royal Tokaji’s Mézes Mály 1999 6 puttonyos Aszu. This is possibly the finest sweet wine yet made by Royal Tokaji. It has 9.6% alcohol, 235g/L residual sugar and 1.2 % total acidity. It is such balance of intensity and acidity that makes this vineyard so special, hence its First Great Growth standing.
Mézes Mály Furmint 2009, Royal Tokaji Wine Co. $34.99 750ml (#2949)
Mézes Mály Tokaji Aszu 6 puttonyos, Royal Tokaji $179.79 500ml (#2950)
Valobra Soaps: The Last of a Ligurian Tradition
Corti Brothers is expanding its horizons just a bit to include a product, not exactly an edible one, but very close: Soap. The soap in question is the product of the last of a Riviera tradition of soap makers, Valobra of Genova. I have visited the Valobra factory many times. It is a little gem of a production with the most gorgeous scents in the factory. Everything is done by hand or by antique equipment that belongs in a museum. The soaps lather well, with a very fine lather and last a reasonable time due to their “seasoning.”
The Riviera master soap makers made the area from Portofino to Marseille famous for its soaps given the availability of oil and barilla, a Mediterranean plant which, when burned, produced the ashes need for soapmaking. Soap is the product of a fat and an alkali (lye) which is cut and aged and used. The tradition of soapmaking goes back to the Sumerians. The Romans and Greeks knew about soap, but preferred scraping with strigils to sudsing. The Celts made soap, but for Mediterranean Europe, the Arabs brought in soap. I would like to think of it as one of the beneficent gifts of the Crusades. (Before this time, and for a long time after, most of medieval Europe preferred not to bathe)
Valobra, founded in 1903 by Virgilio Valobra, father of the present owner, Guglielmo Valobra, adheres to 18th century traditions of Mediterranean soapmaking. “Boiling to strength,” a time consuming method of adding lye during the boiling of the basic mixture, removes salts and impurities. “Seasoning” is the aging for at least six months of the soap mixture, cut into blocks before being prepared for market. The scents used are old fashioned, traditional ones, that last through the life of the bar. And what bars they are.
Valobra Primula Soap: A super fatted soap with lecithin, scented with primrose, wonderful for babies and those with very delicate skin. 100g bar $7.89 each (#2950)
Valobra Calendula Soap: Contains an extract of calendula flowers with beneficent emollient properties, for sensitive and delicate skin. 100g bar $9.79 each (#2951)
Valobra Glicerlanolina Soap: A blend of glycerine and lanolin for dry skin 100g bar $7.89 each (#2952)
Valobra Reseda Soap: Contains wheat germ oil, scented with Mignonette (Reseda odorata) which grows in the Mediterranean area, and perfect for delicate skin during winter weather. 150g bar $9.79 each (#2953)
Valobra Lattuga Soap: Made with lettuce extract, developed for the removal of makeup and for cleansing sunburned skin without irritating it further. 150g bar $9.79 each (#2954)
Valobra Burro di Cacao Soap: Rich in cacao butter which softens skin while cleansing. For dry skin 100g $7.89 (#2955)
Valobra Vitamina A e Carotene Soap: Enriched with wheat germ oil and vitamin A. For sensitive skins and makeup removing. Recommended for use in summer on sunburned skin. 100g bar $9.79 each (#2956)
Valobra Balsamo Soap: A brown colored soap. Contains lecithin. For oily skin that flakes easily. 200g bar $11.99 each (#2957)
Valobra Vitamina E Soap: Vitamin E keeps skin soft. A velvety lather for very delicate skin.100g bar $9.79 (#2958)
Valobra Pratolina Soap: Made with vitamin A and E, for all skin types. Light lavender scent 120g bar $8.69 each (#2959)
Valobra Fougère Soap: Excellent for skin that reddens easily. Royal fern scent. 100g bar $7.89 each (#2960)
Valobra Mandorla Soap: A glycerine and almond oil barrette; can be broken in half. Almond scent $8.99 each (#2961)
Valobra Soap Gift Tin:Contains a bar each of Lattuga, Vitamin E, Reseda, Vit. A & Carotene $49.99 (#2962)
Valobra Primula Soap Gift Tin: Contains four bars of Primula soap $48.39 (#2963)
James Norwood Pratt's Last Words on Tea
With the publication of his Tea Dictionary and The Ultimate Tea Lover's Treasury, James Norwood Pratt has said that these are his last words on the subject. Both books take us into the world of tea and enlighten us marvelously. But Norwood’s stated decision is that “I do not hope to turn again to this subject.” Well, since he will leave us bereft of his tea writings, then we must use these we have and further the cause. I cannot state it any better than does M.F.K. Fisher in her introduction–now the postscript–to The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury, that “Tea grows on bushes, but good books about it do not. This one, though, will cheer us for a long time, and reassure us of the potency of words well used.”
Corti Brothers Blaufrankisch from Washington State
Blaufrankisch is a red varietal now mostly grown in Central Europe, with splotches of planting elsewhere. It goes under many names. Its prime name is Lemberger (Limberger). It is also known as kékfrankos in Hungary, and franconia in northern Italy. Its origin is Lemberg, (Lvov) once the capital of Polish Galicia, at one time an Austrian province. Blaufrankisch would evoke a German origin. It was well rooted in these areas before it made its entrance into France about 1850.
In Washington state it goes under both names, Blaufrankisch and Lemberger, achieving some notoriety as the Washington state variety akin to Zinfandel in California: an iconic red variety producing juicy, delicious wines that can be enjoyed early or moderately aged.
Corti Brothers Blaufrankisch 2010 is a wine vinified in Washington state under the supervision of Jed Steele, an old friend and wonderful winemaker. Its aging and bottling was done in the Steele cellars in Lake County. Jed offered me a series of wine, for private bottling, as he has done since our 1974 Anderson Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which he produced while at Edmeades Vineyard. I chose the Blaufrankisch from the line up since it was very varietal, well colored and aromatic, full flavored with vibrant acidity and a soft finish. It is a wine ready for everyday drinking, that is flavory and not just a simple red wine.
Corti Brothers Blaufrankisch Wine 2011 12.9% $12.99 750ml (#2966) $140.00cs/12 (#2966C)
Vignalta Sale Alle Erbe and Kampot Red Peppercorns: Delicious Gifts
Vignalta Sale alle Erbe, sea salt blended with the fresh herbs from the Vignalta winery in the Colli Euganei, in Italy’s Veneto is our most sought after item. Together with the very rare Kampot Red Peppercorn pepper from Cambodia, these two items would make lovely holiday gifts or hostess gifts anytime since they will be enjoyed and you will be considered a great gourmet for bringing them. Take advantage of their availability now, and lay in a stock for the holidays (or anytime!)
Vignalta Sale Alle Erbe Sea Salt $7.99 10.58oz jar (#2967)
Banyan Gourmet Kampot Red Peppercorns $14.99 4oz bag (#2968)
Some of the Usual Holiday Specialties at Corti Brothers
The holidays would not be holidays without these:
If you are looking for something special, give us a call. We may well have it, (or be able to tell you where to get it.)
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