Kevin Zraly on Brunello “Re-Visited”

Yes there was a Triple Header of Brunello the other day. Well two days and for me any way. The Main Event of Benvenuto Brunello, or as we New York Italian Wine People call it, simply “The Brunello Tasting” which is held every year in New York and a few other chosen cities around the globe. The tasting is for the release of the latest and current vintage of one of Italy’s and the World’s Great Wines, Brunello di Montalcino … Wines made of 100% Snagiovese Grosso aka Brunello. Wine made only in Montalcino (nowhere else in the World). Wine made in the highest standards of wine-making and according to the standards and specifications of The Consorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino and the Italian Goverment.  Brunello must be aged for 2 years in oak barels and 2 years in bottle before being released 4 years after the vintage and 5 years for Brunello deemed Riserva. Thus at this Brunello Tasting in 2013, The Brunello Consorzio and its producers of which 52 of more than 200 were represented on January 31, 2013 at New York’s Gotham Hall (A Regal Setting). So at the 2013 Brunello Tasting we are tasting the 2008 Vintage Brunello, along with the 2007 Brunello Riserva, along with Rosso di Montalcino 2010, Moscadello, and other proprietary wines (Super Tuscans). 

So The Brunello Triple Header, you ask? This is my phrase for my two days of events during Benvenuto Brunello 2013 .. Game 1 of the triple-header is Benevenuto Brunello (The Brunello Tasting) itself and as a whole, a wonderful thing in itself and much anticipated by any and all Italian Wine Geeks as myself. Well I normally don’t use that term for myself, in fact I never have. This is the first time, only done to make a point in just a couple words “Wine Geek.” 

 OK, that’s that. Game 2 of The Brunello Triple Header is the Brunello Seminar-Tasting conducted by Kevin Zraly. It was a marvelous and memorable event for all of the lucky few able to wrangle a seat. Yes, it was! Marvelous!

Brunello Triple-Header Game 3 ? Not for the 100 or so few seats at Kevin Zralys Brunello Seminar, nor the, I guess 2 to 3 thousand people who attended the larger Brunello Tasting, Benvenuto Brunello. Game 3 was a private Tasting of the wonderful Brunello of The Count Francesco Maroni Cinzano from his World Renowned Estate “Col D’Orcia” in Montalcino. We tasted through 8 of the Counts fine wines, which include; Rosso di Montalcino 2010, Brunello Col D’Orcia 2008, the current vintage and featured wine of Benvenuto Brunello. The Count then tasted me on the fine Col D’Orcia Brunello 2001, and then his Brunello Poggio Vento 2004. Stop! Wow! Do you know what Wow means, in wine-speak? Well it means Wow, “This is Phenomenal! It doesn’t get better than this.” I was bold over by this wine, the Poggio Vento Brunello Riserva 2004. The Count told me that the wine was just released. OK, now, at this point in time, January 2013 Montalcino is releasing the 2008 Brunello and 2007 Riservas. Poggio Vento is a Brunello Riserva that is not released after the 5 years require, but 3 years later, for a total of 8 years aging before the wine is released from The Col D’Orcia Estate and ready for sale. And let me tell you, this wine is something special. A Perfect Brunello that any other Brunello could aspire to. Naturally this wine was started in the vineyard with meticulous care of the vines of which produced perfect Brunello Grapes (Sangiovese Grosso). I know this, as this wine could not be as great as it is without perfect fruit. Or if not perfect, for those who might think there is “no perfect,” then as close to perfection that is at all possible. It was acheived in the grapes that went into Count Cinzano’s Brunello Riserva Poggio Vento 2004, “Beleive me.” Then with the wonderful fruit, the grapes had to crushed and fermented to, “if not perfection, then darn close to it.” The, near perfect aging in various oak barrels, and then the selection of which of the many barrels in the Col D’Orcia Cellars would be used to make this, The Count Cinzano’s “Premier Wine”               Brunello Poggio al Vento Riserva. The wine, the Poggio al Vento Brunello Riserva 2004 turned out, “I’ll say it, perfectly.” I just can’t think how a Brunello could taste better or more wonderful, and I thank The Count for tasting me on it personally. That’s quite an Honor my friends, and one I never take lightly whether I’m tasting with the Count Cinzano, Marchese Piero Antinori, Vittorio Fiore or anyone. If they make wine, and great wine, to me, they are almost God-Like. Don’t get me wrong, this is just a metaphor. Let me put it this way. A few years back, when I was The Wine Director of the at the time very hot Bar Stuzzichini, the Marchese Ferdinando Frescobaldi was in town and came to pay me a visit and taste me on his latest vintages of his Frescbaldi Nippozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva, his “Montesodi” Chianti Rufina Riserva and few other wines. I love the Marchese Ferdinando. He’s a really wonderful person, quite affable, down to earth (though he is of Great Florentine Nobility), an all around great guy. So the Marchese was pouring us his wine, he spotted the bartender and asked him if he wanted to taste some wine. The young bartender did. We had a great visit and Ferdinando Frescobaldi left us, off to see some friends. After he left, I tried to explain and put into perspective to the young bartender, exactly who had just poured him the wine. I told him, “that’s Mickey Mantle.” What? Well, I never heard anyone make the analogy or statement as I did that day. For me it was natural and sincere and it just came out of me. For that’s sort of what The Marchese Ferdindando Frescobaldi and a few others is like to me. Most Americans over 40 will know who Mickey Mantle was, and they would have loved him and held him in high regard as one of the Greatest to Ever Play The Game of Baseball, a thing very important and dear to Americans. Much more so than wine is to Italian, believe it or not. Growing up, I loved Mickey Mantle, held him in the highest regard and still do. I was fortunate enough to meet and chat with Mickey a few times and have a couple autographed baseballs from Mickey to prove it. So i told the kid, that man is to Italian Wine what Mickey Mantle is to baseball; a legend, The Greatest of The Great, loved and held in high regard by many, and one of the most important and influential men in his field. Well I didn’t say all that to the kid, I just said he was “The Mickey Mantle of Italian Wine.” Well I don’t think the kid got my point or really cared, but by saying this, anyone who knows a bit about wine will know what I’m talking about and how I feel about some of the Great Men of Italian Wine (Women too).

Daniel Bellino-Zwicke

“Game 2 of My Brunello Triple-Header”

KEVIN ZRALY TALKS BRUNELLO    “Brunello Seminar-Tasting Gotham Hall”

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The affable Kevin Zraly held a Brunello Seminar at The New York Brunello Tasting 2013 …And for the few lucky enough to attend, it was quite a great event. Great, yes great, and Mr. Keven Zraly in my book is quite great when it comes to knowledge of wine, his Love and approach to it, drinking, tasting for his own pleasure and knowledge as well as the Drinking, Tasting, and Education Kevin imparts on those in his classes, readers and owners of his famed Windows On The World Wine Course (Book), and anyone as I’ve Just said “Lucky Enough to Attend One of Mr. Zraly’s Wine Seminars,” in this case for one of Italy’s and The World’s most esteemed wines and one of Kevin’s 3 Favorite Wines (Kevin’s words) Brunello di Montalcino.


 “Don’t Touch It! Don’t touch it !!!” shouts Kevin Zraly, near the beginning of his seminar. He know there are always people on every level of experience at any one of the many wine seminars he has conducted over the years, including the most experienced and at least one or maybe several people who have never ever been to a Seminar Wine Tasting like this in their lives. This maybe their first one, “Don’t Touch Don’t touch!!!” It’s quite funny and a bit shocking the way Kevin does these as he sets the tone for his style of wine seminar, which is “No Muss No Fuss No BS,” and as Mr. Zraly says no English Poetry, in an effort to say there will be none of that overdone pontification, just straight normal talk, and talk even a beginner could grasp about wine, and with Kevin his approach will make you love the object and the subject of “Wine” even more. That’s what a great wine educator does. There are not many better than Kevin Zraly, “if any?”

   Yes, the seminar was quite wonderful. If being at the most important Brunello Tasting of the year wasn’t enough, and being the first in the World to taste the 2008 Vintage and 07 Riservas, in a beautiful setting like Gotham Hall, in The Greatest City in The World, and as the Head of The Brunello Consorzio stated this glorious day, “New York Is The Greatest and Most Important Market in The World For The Producers of Brunello di Montalcino.” Yes Sir “It Is.” Yes those at The New York Brunello Tasting were among-st the first in the World to taste these fine wines, and Mr.s Zraly made that point, as well as stating how wonderful the Wines were, that we were very fortunate to be drinking them, and that Brunello was along with Bordeaux, one of his 3 Favorite wines in the World to drink. Myself and Michael Colameco (Who is The fine host of “Real Food” one of TV’s Best Cooking Shows on PBS) sitting next to me at the seminar, we both surmised the third  of Kevin’s 3 Favorite Wines of The World had to be Burgundy. This we need to find out.

    “Smell it 3 times. Cover the glass with your hand. Sniff! Toast the person sitting next to you and drink. Think about it for 1 minute at 15 second intervals. Do you still taste it? What do you taste?” Well, we tasted 8 very fine offerings of this fabulous wine, Brunello di Montalcino. The wines were all wonderful, and being at Benvenuto Brunello in such a gorgeous setting as Gotham Hall and being led in a Tasting of Great Brunello by one of the World’s Greatest Authorities on Wine, this was a combination that was unbeatable. Being in the Italian Wine and Restaurant Business for more than 25 and writing for another 8, I can tell your that I’ve been to many a incredible wine event, like: a Vertical Wine tasting and Luncheon with the Marchese Piero Antinori, Dinner at Spark’s Steak-House with Jacopo Biondi Santi and his wines, as well as lunches and dinners on many great wine estates in Italy. The kind of events people would kill to be able to attend, I’ve been to many, and this Brunello Seminar tasting with kevin Zraly shall be filed in my head with some of those other great wine moments. It was most enjoyable, and I’m so glad I made it (almost din’t go).

   So Bravo Brunello! And Bravo Kevin for your passion, love of the wine, and the way you lead others, in your very Zraly Direction.

Daniel Bellino Zwicke

BRUNELLO SEMINAR with KEVEN ZRALY .. January 31, 2013 …. Afternoon Seminar


1.   Palazzo – 2008

2.   Fanti -2008

3.   Tenute Sivio Nardi – 2008

4.   Donatella Cinelli Colombini – 2008

5.   Uccelliera – 2008

6.   Palazzo – Riserva 2004

7.   Col D’Orcia 2001

8.   IL Poggione Riserva 1999

An overall assessment and thoughts on the 8 Brunello’s we tasted. First off, they were all very good to wonderful to remarkable. A great line-up including some excellent producers and very fine vintages of recent years. It seemed an overall consensus that pretty much everyone (Writers, Restaurant People, Wine Professionals,and Hobbyists) in the room liked each and every wine we drank, all wonderful wines, and with Kevin “Cheer-Leading” us with his love of wine and Brunello, I believe everyone enjoyed these wines even more than if they had tasted all 8 in another manner than this great tasting-seminar.

   As all wines were wonderful, I must admit that there were 3 wines that we all got a bit more excited and super-charged over. These wines were; the Brunello Uccelliera 2008, the Brunello Col D’Orcia 2001, and the Brunello IL Poggione 1999 … Without going into any, as Kevin Zraly would say “English Poetry” these 3 wines were just wonderful. The kind of wines you light up over and just saying “Wow,” is enough to say that they had everything you want in a great Brunello or any great wine, great aroma, Wonderful Taste combined with “Perfect Balance,” and simply greatness.

   Again, a great tasting, overall Benvenuto Brunello, lots of great wines, wonderful people, and a fine Seminar-Tasting of Brunello conducted by Mr. Kevin Zraly. Again, Bravo!

Daniel Bellino Zwicke

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Daniel Bellino-Zwicke Tastes The Great Wines of Col D’Orcia, multi vintages of Col D’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino with the Estates Esteemed proprietor, The Count Franceso Muroni Cinzano at a Private Luncheon in New York ….

The Beautiful Abbey of SANT ANTIMO, Montalcino with Brunello Vines in foreground …

Brunello Col D’Orcia Riserva “Pogio Al Vento” 2004, one of the greatest Braunello s ever !


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