Friday, March 26, 2010

A Lunch with Ruffino

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I have decided that I love Spring. This is the time of year when every winemaker and their brother comes into town. I sometimes get jealous of all the bloggers in California that can go out to wine country every weekend to meet winemakers, taste their wines, and do so with a group of other wine geeks. In New York, the wine country is both father away and not nearly as attractive as the wineries near San Francisco (although I have been hearing great things about wine being made in Brooklyn).

This past Monday, I attended a tasting at the International Culinary Center (ICC) of wines from Ruffino. This company, founded in 1877 by Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino and purchased by the Folonari family in 1913, makes some of the finest wines from Italy. Adolfo Folonari, the CEO of the company came to New York to talk to some of the most important wine writers and journalists that have been in the business for several of the past few decades. I have no idea how I wrangled an invitation.

Along with the wines from Ruffino, we had the pleasure of having Cesare Casella, a renowned Italian Chef, give us a taste of Italy. Casella has run many successful restaurants in New York, and is currently the Dean of the Italian Culinary Academy at the ICC. Casella most recently opened Salumeria Rosi ( on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a shop and restaurant with a focus on premium Italian salumi (yes, I spelled that right). With seven types of salumi to taste and a delicious meal prepared by students of the ICC, it was a delicious rainy afternoon.

Have you ever seen two Italians (I mean real Italians, direct from Italy) talk about food? It is like watching two professors discuss their favorite topic to someone who takes an opposing view. With arm waving to match the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. There has to be a thought of how the food was grown, where the pigs were housed, what they ate, how long the smoking took, which village has the best atmosphere, etc. On Facebook one of my friends said, "They were probably actually talking about sex." I loved every minute of it.

Speaking of Facebook, between the journalists there was a lot of banter regarding how often one of them posts status updates and comments. This really highlighted for me how far behind the people in the room really were in today's world of social communication. The room was filled with people for whom I have the utmost respect. Their wine savvy is unquestionable, their contribution to the wine industry immense, and their connections to the most powerful winemakers and import companies could change the course of the market. One of their number was learning how social media works, checking out how to use Facebook. I know one or two of them are on Twitter, but they do not really interact with people there. They did it to see what it is all about. I applaud their efforts and I encourage them to keep going. Read the blogs just as often as the newspapers. Put the wine reviewing site on the radar. Add an RSS feed or two to an RSS Feed Reader. If that is all gibberish, read about it on Wikipedia.

Now that I got that out of my system, I can turn back to the wines. My favorites of the tasting were:

2009 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia IGT - Bright and creamy, with very nice hints of lemon. This wine had flavor and body, something I find lacking in so many Pinot Grigio's. The group also loved this wine and for $10 it's a steal.

2004 Ruffino Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Delicate, with slight cedar wood notes, blackberry and a pleasant heat on the nose. Rich and fruity with soft spices, a heap of cinnamon, and a liveliness that gives the wine energy and a strong desire for food.

2001 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG - A smooth wine, deep dark fruit, but with a solid base of structure and bright acidity and a chocolate finish. This is a big wine that has done well for nine years and I think would love some more time to sit.

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