To Our Customers:
Storico Vermouth di Torino Cocchi
When a new product that is truly exceptional appears, it really does reflect Brillat-Savarin’s statement that the “discovery of a new dish does more to benefit mankind than the discovery of a new star.” This is the “benefit” of the new Vermouth di Torino Cocchi. But why should a vermouth be the cause of such joy?
Well, because there are so few good ones to be found that a truly exceptional one is cause for joy on the part of a) people who enjoy drinking a good vermouth straight as an aperitif or at any time; b) cocktail fanciers have now gotten a splendid new ingredient to work with; c) the class of product has been down for so long, it’s time for its resurrection.
The Cocchi firm, producer of Cocchi Americano, Barolo Chinato and sparkling wines, is celebrating its 120th anniversary. Now owned by the Bava family of Cocconato d’Asti, they have resurrected one of the original recipes from 1891 created by Giulio Cocchi and have brought it back to market. The Storico Vermouth di Torino is a class of vermouth, and the origin of a number of fortunes in Piedmontese enology; however, vermouth’s origin is German.
Like many enjoyable things, vermouth is replete with legend. From the original word “wermut” meaning wormwood, the Artemisia family, the idea of a flavored wine has been traced back to Homer’s Odyssey and Dante’s Divine Comedy. We know that the Romans used “absenthiatum vinum” flavored with frankincense, wormwood, nard, and myrrh. In Torino, the first to sell this flavored wine or vermut, was a certain Luis Marendazzo, the original proprietor of the shop where in 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano created his own version of this flavored wine “vino vanigliato.” By 1835, the Cora brothers purchased the shop of Giovanni Rovere (dating from 1700) and began their vermouth business in Torino. In 1838, they shipped the first cases of vermouth exported to the USA.
In spite of the fame Torino has for its vermouth, it is possible that even earlier, Tuscany was pre-eminent in vermouth production since there was a recipe for a Tuscan style, first described in 1570 by Soderini and praised by Villifranchi, a medical doctor in his 1773 work, Enologia Toscana. It would make sense since the effect of adding herbs and spices to wine would have first necessitated having them available. The Medici court was definitely more well provisioned that of Torino.
Vermouth di Torino becomes famous because close to Torino there is produced Moscato d’Asti wine. In fact, the basis for all Vermouth di Torino should be Moscato d’Asti. This is what differentiates it. If the base is not moscato, then the label should not read “di Torino.”
Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino is just this: it is the historical, original recipe of Giulio Cocchi for the vermouth he produced for his numerous bars in Piemonte and northern Italy.
Using the raw material of vermouth--barks, herbs, and spices in the original Cocchi secret recipe--the Bava family has infused these flavors in a moscato base wine and then produces its own melted sugar to color and sweeten the blend. All of this takes time and ability. Vermouth preparation is not simple, and it needs continuous attention. With its complex, aromatic scent, enticingly bitter yet smooth flavor, this is possibly the best product of its type on the market. Do not be the last person to find out about it. There is no reason to be the rear end of the avant garde.
Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino 18% $18.99 750ml (#2750)
One of the famous drinks made with vermouth is the Negroni, named for Count Camillo Negroni who preferred his “Americano” made with gin. Here is a slightly different version called the Negroni “Sbagliato” or the incorrect Negroni. Use a rocks or stem glass. In a shaker add equal parts Campari and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. Shake together with ice. Strain into the glass and top with a dry Italian spumante or Prosecco. Serve.
Marsala--Italy's Forgotten Wine: Four Wines from Curatolo Arini
Marsala, the very Sicilian wine with the Arabic name, (Marsh-al-Allah, harbor of God) has stood for a long time as an example of what was poor in Italian enology. This honorable wine type, created to rival Port, Sherry, and Madeira, and which for a time did, has almost been forgotten even in Sicily. Literally an English invention from a local wine, it was first sold by John Woodhouse to Admiral Nelson’s fleet during the Napoleonic War and became famous in England before it was diffuse in Italy. Produced from catarratto, inzolia, and grillo grapes grown in the delimited area in the province of Trapani, it is slowly returning to its place in the pantheon of noble fortified wines. In the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Marsala had more than 200 “bagli,” wine cellars exporting Marsala, making the city the richest on Sicily. Now there are less than twenty producers.
It is a product of winemaking. Every firm has its own special way of producing Marsala, which can be made by simply allowing a dry, fortified white wine to age. This produces Marsala Vergine, always a dry wine. To make what is called Marsala Superiore, a special blending mixture called “concia” is used by each producer. This is made from boiled down grape juice and an angelica-like wine of fortified grape juice. Aging is required according to the various quality grades which make up the wine type. The concia should be looked at like the dosage of a Champagne firm. It gives the house signature to the wine.
We have purchased some delicious Marsala from Baglio Curatolo Arini 1875, a Marsala area producer, who now wants to specialize in table wines made from the same grapes that produce Marsala. They still produce Marsala, and very good ones they are. But today’s tastes have made Marsala a wine type, which like vermouth, has no where to go but up. Good wines are around. It’s the market that doesn’t recognize them.
There are two ranges of Curatolo Arini Marsala: One is the Superiore Secco and Dolce. The other is the Superiore Riserva Dry and Riserva Storica 1988. The first comprises the basic dry and sweet style with the legal minimum aging of two years and the second with a minimum of four years aging. In practice, this minimum is actually much more. Marsala is classified by color, sugar content, ageing and alcohol. This allows for a great deal of diversity of product even within the same producer. The Secco wines can have up to 40g/L of sugar and the Dolce wines 100+g/L in the finished product. If you have not tasted fine Marsala before, here is your chance. It is an appealing wine style, softer than either Sherry or Madeira and not so rich as Tawny Port.
Curatolo Arini Superiore Secco 18% 750ml (#2751)
Curatolo Arini Superiore Riserva Dry 18% 750ml (#2753)
Golden light amber color, paler than the Secco. Elegant, delicate nose and more intense flavor, with a slight salty tang due to age. It opens like a peacock’s tail. An expansive, dry/offdry flavor, very long and mouthfilling.
Curatolo Arini Superiore Riserva Storica 1988 $24.99 750ml (#2754)
Amber colored, some russet center, light green edge indicating age. A complex, delicate aroma of nuts and ripe fruit. Very mouthfilling, Initial attack dry, then a rich follow through with a delicious crème brulée finish. Dry end, very, very long aromatic flavor in the mouth.
Remember I spoke about legends. Well, Marsala is associated with a food legend. It has to do with zabaglione, the Italian writing of a Piemontese dessert made of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala. Its name in Torinese dialect is “‘L Sanbajon” named for the Spanish saint, Paschal Baylon. Working in Torino he gave this recipe to the women of his parish to re-inforce their husbands’ desire for them. The saint never made it to Torino, and the date of the recipe is supposedly 1690. He had been dead for almost 100 years and was canonized in 1680. Nice legend; better recipe. You can use the Dolce or the Dry for this to good effect.The original recipe for Zabaglione: ’L Sanbajon 1+2+2+1 (1 fresh egg yolk + 2 teaspoons sugar (and beat until it turns white) + 2 half egg shells full of Marsala + 1 half eggshell of water. Place in a double boiler or over a pot of simmering water, and keep beating continuously until the mixture mounts and is hot. When thick as whipped cream, pour into cups and serve. During summer, this is splendid with fresh berries or peaches. Serve hot or cold.
A Delicious and Simple Entertaining Snack: Erin's Popcorn
Popcorn is one of my favorite things. A small bag of Erin's Popcorn just vanishes with an aperitif before dinner. I enjoy the two flavors, natural and white cheddar, equally well, and sometimes have to admit to first having one then the other. When you really do not want to have something fussy or are even too lazy to cut a piece of salame, a bag of Erin’s popcorn solves the problem. It’s really good in its simple fresh popped popcorn way. For nibbling during the dog days of summer this is just the ticket.
Produced in the Pacific Northwest by noted potato chip producer, Tim's Cascade, Erin's all natural popcorn is grown on a family farm in Nebraska. It is small batch popped using pure corn oil. The only flavor made is white cheddar. Salt is added and that is all. Popped five days a week, it has a shelf life of 18 weeks without any enhancers. One of its virtues is that you can enjoy Erin's Popcorn at any moment you crave popcorn. All you have to do is buy a stock, then open the bag, pour into a bowl, and go to town. Or you could eat it out of the bag. There are no “old maids,” those unpopped kernels that remain in home-popped popcorn.
Definitely more-ish, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try them sooner.Erin's Popcorn Original 1.5oz bag (#2755)
Erin's Popcorn Original 4.5oz bag (#2756)
Erin's Popcorn White Cheddar 1.5 oz bag (#2757)
Erin's Popcorn White Cheddar 4 oz bag (#2758)
Rosé for Summer
A good rosé has to be made from the outset. It should not be an afterthought of red wine production. There is nothing tastier during summer than a good, chilled rosé. Rosé is not a synonym for sweet as some think, but should be fresh and very drinkable. Here are two favorites for this season.Corte Gardoni Bardolino Chiaretto 2011 12.5% 750ml (#2759)
Gianni Piccoli produces what is probably the best Bardolino made in this small appellation near Verona. Chiaretto is the name of the light red wine, the rosé, made in the area. Fresh, zippy and fragrant, it is a delicious accompaniment to any summer meal (and a fall one also.) His red wine is Bardolino, Le Fontane, one of the most delicious red wines to be served chilled I can think of. These wines are but different aspects of each other.
Corte Gardoni Bardolino Le Fontane 2011 12% 750ml (#2760)
Schnaitmann Rosé 2010 Evoé (Württemberg) 11.5% 750ml (#2761)
This is a pale pink rosé produced 80% from pinot noir and 20% trollinger (schiava, in Italian) grown in the southern German area of Württemberg, where very interesting red wines are being grown. This is an elegant and tasty wine with superb flavor. Equally good.
Schnaitmann Lemberger 2008 13% 750ml (#2762)
Salted Capers from the Sicilian Islands
Another great addition to the summer cooking arsenal is Capers. The best capers are the salted ones which have not been vinegared. They are simply packed in salt as are all capers, the unopened flower buds of a thorny bush that grows in improbable places. The most sought after productions of capers comes from the set of small islands in the Mediterranean, off the northern coast of Sicily, called the Aeolian Islands and another island off the southern coast, called Pantelleria. We have three sizes of buds: piccoli (small)and mediani (medium) from Lipari, and capperoni (large) from Pantelleria.
Picking capers is backbreaking labor, stoop labor, of the worse kind under a scorching sun. We should be grateful that there are still productions of this type; otherwise, we would be without these flavorful little beads. Capers fit into almost any summer dressing for fresh vegetables, tomatoes, salad dressings, and even fresh green salsas for grilled meat.
To use them, they just need to be rinsed, then soaked for 10-20 minutes in cold water, drained and used, either whole or chopped. They give a special fresh, somewhat leafy flavor to whatever they are mixed with. If you want them to be slightly sharp, then merely add a dash of vinegar.Salted Capers Piccoli $11.49 4oz bag (#2763)
Salted Capers Mediani $11.49 4oz bag (#2764)
Salted Capers Capperoni $11.49 4oz bag (#2765)
For Adding Zip To Your Summer Menus and Dishes: Peppercorns,
Pickles, and Vinegars
Kampot Pepper: exceptional peppercorns from Cambodia
What is the only monetary term that comes from a spice? Peppercorn rent. Even in the 21st century this term is still used for a rent that belies its cost. At one time, peppercorn rent was expensive. And so it happened: from a very small berry, came great fortunes.
Piper nigrum, the vine which produces what we know as black pepper, also produces the rare red pepper, green peppercorns, and white pepper. They all come from the same source, a vine producing a grape cluster looking set of berries, which when treated differently produce different flavors. The rarest peppercorn is the red pepper, produced from red ripe, fully mature pepper berries, which when dried retain some of their russet color and have a different scent from black peppercorns. Black peppercorns are the green berries, which turn dark in drying. Green peppercorns are fresh, freeze dried, or pickled where they retain their green color. White pepper is made by removing the outer hull of the ripe pepper by soaking in water. It is black pepper without its hull.
Cambodia is the source of Kampot Pepper. This pepper known to the Chinese since the 13th century, was the source of most French pepper since France colonized Cambodia in 1863. In 1953, the country declared its independence from France, and in the 1970s it became the scene of devastation due to political events aligned with the Vietnam war. Cambodia sits between southern Vietnam on the east and Thailand and Laos to the northwest. Kampot is a province in the southern part of the country, just south of the capital Phnom Penh. Kampot pepper is so well thought of that it is the first Cambodian product to be given a Protected Geographical Indication in 2009 by the national government and the European Union. This means that Kampot pepper must be grown within its designated area in Kampot and Kep province, following traditional methods.
Royal Banyan Gourmet is a company presenting Kampot pepper in the three colors red, black, and white. Since importing directly from Cambodia is very difficult, Royal Banyan Gourmet acts as the go between for these outstanding peppers and other products. For pepper lovers, and there are a lot of you, Kampot pepper is a must try. Generations of French chefs could not be wrong.Royal Banyan Gourmet Red Kampot Pepper $14.99 4oz bag (#2766)
Royal Banyan Black Kampot Pepper $11.99 4oz bag (#2767)
Royal Banyan White Kampot Pepper $12.99 4oz bag (#2768)
Sima's Sweets & Sours: Persian Delicacies Made in Sacramento
In the Greek author Athenaeus’ The Diepnosophists, one of the earliest fine living texts in the western world, the author remarks about “Persian luxury and extravagance.” We don’t think much about Persian cuisine, but there is a great deal of tradition and exchange throughout the eastern Mediterranean that owes much to this ancient cuisine. Persia is the historical name for what we now know as Iran.
An Iranian couple living in Sacramento produces under the Sima's label several traditional pickles, relishes, and jams (really spoon fruits) from local produce. There is the pickled mixed vegetable Torshi, and two relishes, traditionally called Litteh, made--one from jalapenos, the other from eggplant. The word “torshi” means “sour” or “pickled,” and “litteh” means “chopped up” as in “relish.” A high sugar (brix) pickled garlic rounds out the line. They will definitely add a dollop of simple extravagance to your summer menus.
Sima also produces a series of fine fruit jams. A new one, 3 Fruit Jam, is made from three fruits all from the same family (rosacaeae) apple, apricot, and quince. It has a pretty apricot color, a soft texture with, at different times, the creamy flavor and texture of apricots, an excellent apple flavor, then that of quince, in a fine julienne. Not overly sweet, it packs a lot of flavor. Wonderful on toast, it is even better with yogurt or soft, fresh cheese.Sima's Three Fruit Jam $5.99 12 oz jar (#2773)
Palm Vinegar is not usually used in western cuisine. It is made from the fermented fresh sap of the toddy palm and is very mild in flavor. Royal Banyan Gourmet ships two versions made in Cambodia. One is Black Pepper Palm Vinegar flavored with whole Kampot peppercorns in the bottle, and the other is Pineapple-Banana Palm Vinegar made by adding fresh pineapple and fresh banana to the palm sap and then acetifying the blend. Both vinegars are different from traditional vinegars in the West and both are delicious. Their best use is probably with fruit mixtures where you want a hint of sour, but nothing to overpower fresh fruit flavors. They are perfect for use in Cambodian cuisine, a delicious cuisine, similar to Vietnamese.
Corti Brothers Red Wine Vinegar is back in a new bottling. Our own house vinegar has its many admirers and rightly so. It is good vinegar, which is more difficult to produce than good wine, but must begin with good, sound wine. This bottling of Corti Brothers Red Wine Vinegar is very red in color, with a complete, mature vinegar aroma and flavor. It has been aged, but just not to the extreme age of other bottlings. If you like a hearty red wine vinegar, this is for you.
Unió Moscatel Vinegar and Vermouth Vinegar are produced for the Reus, Spain, cooperative that makes Siurana extra virgin oil. The Moscatel Vinegar is produced from the local clone of muscat of Alexandria called moscatel romano. The base is the dry wine of this variety, acetified, then blended with some of the fortified sweet wine of the same variety. This means that the vinegar has a lovely muscat character, and fruitiness is enhanced by the addition of the sweet wine. This is a vinegar which truly is addictive. Once you enjoy a salad dressed with Moscatel vinegar, you rarely change.
Vermouth Vinegar is made by acetifying vermouth. It probably began as an accident; a vermouth became acetic. Now it is made to be vermouth vinegar. This means that a vermouth is produced and then acetified. It has the complex herbal character of vermouth with a definite vinegar character. Fragrant and flavorful, it works wonderfully in marinades and dressings. Just use your imagination. Both are 60 grain strength..Unió Moscatel Vinegar 500ml (#2778)
Unió Vermouth Vinegar 500ml (#2779)
Krugermann's Old Fashioned Pickled
Summertime means having pickles to accompany dishes–to lift them up and give them piquancy. In a small plant in the Silver Lake district of downtown Los Angeles, the Kruegermann family produces Berlin style pickles as they have since 1896. The original plant was in East Berlin. The Kruegermann family, in California since 1961, makes a varied range of traditional pickles here in California using the same recipes and techniques they did in Berlin.
They have daily fresh delivery of fresh cucumbers and other vegetables from Southern (and Northern) California farms and transform them into what I think are California’s best, but probably least known pickles. No chemical flavorings or preservatives are used–just fresh produce, herbs, and spices. Stability is achieved with heat.
The Krugermann range is in quart jars except where noted:
Uborka, Hungarian Style Spicy Pickles $4.59 jar (#2780)
Kruegermann pickles can be stored at room temperature, but should be chilled before serving and once opened, stored in the refrigerator. They are deliciously simple to enjoy.
More New Oils for Your Pleasure: Marqués De Griñón Picual
Carlos Falcó, the Marqu´es De Griñón is actually a larger than life person. In the 1960s he came to California to the UC Davis campus to learn viticulture and enology. Then he returned to Spain, to his family property, the Dominio de Valdepusa, near Toledo, which they have held since 1292, and planted grapes without permission. This led to various problems with officialdom and finally due to the extremely high quality of his wine, to his being granted the first personal appellation of origin in Spain, a Pago de Familia. Now he is doing the same with olives. These are the Serie Limitada oils.
The Marqués de Griñón oils Corti Brothers is pleased to present were produced by Marco Mugelli, whose Torre Bianca oils we also import. Using revolutionary new technology, Marco Mugelli was able to produce exceptional oils from two Spanish varieties, picual and arbequina. For the first time, I have convinced the Marqués that the oils should be bottled separately so that their different qualities can be seen. (Normally the oils are blended into a very fine oil.) In this way the differences of the cultivar can be experienced. Corti Brothers are exclusive with these single cultivar oils. They are just in time for use on summer veggies and salads.
Being present at the production of these oils extracted at the end of November 2010 at the property in Spain, I can tell you they are exceptional. 2010 was one of those years which go down in history as a difficult harvest. He who was able to make really good oil was extremely fortunate and had to have a wizard as the producer. And so it happened. Here are two very special oils that honor their origin, their cultivars, and the man who made them. Production: 1800 bottles of each.
Marqu´es De Griñón Serie Limitada Arbequina Olive Oil 250ml (#2793)
The Garlic Collection for 2011: Available after August 15, 2011
The price for all garlic is $12.99 per pound. Bulbs will be packaged as individually labeled, netted bulbs.
Vekek (Zetak), Czech Republic, Hard Neck, Purple striped. Storage 4-5 mos. (#2575)
The garlic collection will be ready for shipping by 15 August. We will bill and ship then to orders given now. Garlic is sold in random weights only, so please call us to order.
Joy of Sake - Honolulu, Hawai'i, Friday September 9, 2011
The Joy of Sake in Honolulu is a marvelous sake (and Japanese food) tasting which is the culmination of a very important sake tasting, the U.S. National Sake Appraisal. For a dozen years now, it has been the showcase for the best sake made in the world. This year it is on Friday, 9 September 2011, at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu.
Grant Eddie Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 2009
June 1, 2011 was the date of the beginning of the California State Fair wine tasting. I was on a panel that tasted micro winery wines, production levels under 500 cases. In the Zinfandel class, of the six wines presented to the panel, one stood out for me as exceptional Zinfandel, but of a style I had not seen for a number of years. It was red in color as opposed to the somewhat inky color now fashionable. It had that scented Zinfandel character, the brambly, black pepper scent that was the hallmark of Zinfandel before the 1970s. I remarked to the panel that I would never have expected to see a wine like this in California again. And yet, there it was. I promptly awarded it a gold medal. But as tastings go, some of the others were not so convinced. I immediately found out who made the wine and we now have it for sale. I figure, if I like it, our customers might also.
Grant Eddie is the name of the winery located in North Yuba, and the grapes come from the terraced vineyards that were originally planted for Renaissance winery. The wine making team is Grant Ramey and Eddie Schulten, hence the name. The vines for this wine are 32 years old and own rooted, selectively picked 2 to 3 times. Vinification is with wild yeast, a 4-5 day cold soak, early pressing at 10 days fermentation, lees stirred in barrel, racked once and bottled at about 11 months of age. The wine is unfiltered, but egg white fined to polish it before bottling.
Noyau De Poissy - France’s Oldest Liqueur
After a lapse of some thirty years, Noyau De Poissy is back in the U.S. market. From the Île de France region around Paris, it is considered the oldest French liqueur, dating from about 1698. Noyau is a sweet liqueur, a crème, flavored with almonds and apricot kernels. In French, “noyau” means pit, as in the pit of stone fruit. Kernels of apricot pits are macerated for three days in a young cognac base with aromatics, and then distilled. Poissy was the center of apricot production.
One can imagine Noyau De Poissy as a type of amaretto, but clear in color not amber. It has a delicate almond character with a touch of spice and rose. Delicate, it can be used in dessert making, or served with coffee after a meal. Well balanced and long in flavor, it blends well with fresh fruit salads or in custard sauces. Served just as is, over ice or in frozen liqueur glasses, it puts the perfect end to a meal, just as it did in the 17th century.Noyau De Poissy Liqueur 40% $37.99 750ml (#2796)
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