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Sipping with Rita Jammet, La Caravelle Champagne

We’ve known Rita and André Jammet for more than two decades. The Jammet family is a tight-knit clan and are always ready to support their friends in the industry. In 2004, they made the tough decision to close their iconic New York Cty restaurant, La Caravelle, which stood as a standard bearer for timeless French food in an elegant setting for more than four decades (it opened in 1960).  Many wondered if the Jammets would open another restaurant. They left that move to one of their their sons, Nicolas Jammet, who is cofounder of the super-successful healthy dining, quick service chain sweetgreen 

Instead, the senior Jammets reinvented, but without leaving restaurants and hospitality behind. They launched La Caravelle Champagne. Producing  a high-quality, proprietary blend champagne was not a far reach. La Caravelle restaurant had been serving a signature house cuvée, a common tradition among the better French restaurants. In fact, Andre Jammet’s ancestors in France had been blending proprietary wines since the 1700s for their Paris restaurant, Le Bœuf à la Mode, and later for the renowned Le Bristol hotel, which they owned for many years.

Rita and Andre Jammet

Rita Jammet has become the tireless ambassador for the La Caravelle brand. Again, this is nothing new since she was the first to sign up and support many causes and initiatives to support the industry when she and Andre ran La Caravelle (and she still does).  Hospitality and serving the community are in the Jammet’s DNA. Rita Jammet, with Melanie, is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of leading women in wine and food, and she is active in many other organizations.

As for La Caravelle Champagne, it’s everything you’d want in a classic champagne without paying the higher price of many well-known châteaux labels.

Here’s what we tasted:

Champagne Cuvée Niña: The signature brut is named after one of the Caravelle ships built by Columbus for his voyage to the New World. The multi-vintage cuvée features a blend of 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier, with an elegant floral nose and notes of yuzu, white peaches and gingerbread.

Champagne Rosé: A beautiful salmon pink Champagne blended from the same base as the Niña with the addition of elegant red wines from well-known appellations such as Aÿ and Bouzy. With a floral and red berry bouquet, the rosé evokes hints of cherry almond, pomegranate and fennel.

Champagne Blanc de Blancs: Made with an exclusive blend of the best chardonnay crus harvested primarily from the Côte des Blancs and aged for three years, this complex wine has an elegant bouquet perfumed with white flowers and a refreshing, lively flavor with notes of citrus and rhubarb. Wine Spectator: 91 points

Learn more at


Melanie (center) with fellow Les Dames d’Escoffier members (left to right): Rachel Martin, Oceano Wines; Rita Jammet, La Caravelle Champagne; and Carol Brock, founder of Les Dames d’Escoffier.


Listen to our podcast with Rita Jammet on The Connected Table SIPS. This podcast is part our Women Making History in Wine & Spirits series, which also supports Les Dames d’Escoffier. We are expanding the series to include women in food. For information on participation, contact:




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Sipping with Rachel Martin – Oceano Wines

Rachel Martin grew up working at her family’s Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Virginia, which we had the chance to visit in December 2018. Gorgeous place with beautiful Bordeaux-blend style wines. It is well worth a visit.

But it’s what Martin’s doing in San Luis Obispo, California, where she spent much of her childhood, that has been making some waves. With her husband, Kurt Deutsch, an award-winning record and theater producer, Martin launched Oceano Wines in 2016. Its first wine, Oceano Spanish Spring Chardonnay, has already become a hit! In April 2019, the Ocean Springs 2017 Spanish Springs Vineyard Chardonnay ($38) was named “Domestic Wine of the Year” at the 37th Annual San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, and it earned a Gold Medal at the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival International Wine Competition.

Rachel Martin, CoFounder, Oceano Wines

Martin, who earned a degree in viticulture and enology from Napa Valley College and  attended the University of Bordeaux School of Enology, says she set out to make her dream wine when conceiving Oceano- a mineral-driven 100% Chardonnay in the style of a Grand Cru white Burgundy. Oceano’s grapes are hand-harvested from Spanish Springs Vineyard, a SIP -certified vineyard on the slopes of Price Canyon on the southern edge of Edna Valley. Just about one-half mile from the Pacific Ocean, this area is blessed with the sea breezes, warm sunny days and cooler nights- ideal for ripening the grapes.

Oceano Chardonnay is fermented and aged in French oak, and the end result is soft golden wine filled with aromas of  citrus and spring flowers, and flavors of grapefruit and lemon, guava, cantaloupe, pear and vanilla with touch of toasted brioche.

Oceano will release a Pinot Noir this year.

In support of women
A member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Rachel is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and Women of the Vine & Spirits, Martin says her industry icon is vintner, Merry Edwards (who sold her company this year). Martin says, “Merry Edwards is my greatest icon among women in the wine industry. She earned her Masters Degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Enology from UC Davis in 1973. Of three women in her class, she was the only one who became a winemaker. She overcame gender discrimination while pursuing her career, rejecting positions as a laboratory technician, the traditional role of women in the wine industry at that time.”

To recognize women in the wine and spirits industry, we created a special themed series for The Connected Table SIPS called “Women Making History in Wine & Spirits.” Launched in March during International Women’s History Month, this series is ongoing and features women around the world, working in different aspects of the industry. A donation of each sponsored podcast will be made to Les Dames d’Escoffier (New York or International depending o the location of the guest). For information, contact Melanie-

Listen to our podcast with Rachel Martin on The Connected Table SIPS here:

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Chianti Colli Fiorentini: Exploring Wines from the Outskirts of Florence

When heading to Tuscany to visit its wineries, most travelers head out of Florence and drive for a while to get to the most famous regions, like Montalcino and Montepulciano. But did you know that great wine, particularly Chianti, is made right outside the city in the surrounding hills?

Chianti Colli Fiorentini is one of a number of regions for chianti production and has been classified since the 1930s, making it one of the earliest to be officially recognized. It is also the only DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Italy’s highest quality designation) classified region for Chianti production that can include “Firenze” (Italian for Florence) on the label. As such, the wines from Colli Fiorentini are very popular in Florence itself, and are a source of pride among locals.

Like in many areas of Tuscany, grapes have been grown in Colli Fiorentini for a long time, and wines from the region have a reputation for being approachable and drinkable fairly early after release. Now, thanks to a new generation of owners who are working to increase awareness and extend their reach in the marketplace, The wines for Chianti Colli Fiorentini are starting to gain a reputation outside the region, as well.

Vineyards at Chianti Colli Fiorentini just after harvest in 2018

The Connected Table recently spent time in Colli Fiorentini visiting a number of producers, both large and small. We were thrilled by the wines we tried, and also by the people we met, who are warm and inviting to oeno-tourists. In fact, oeno-tourism is a big part of their livelihood, and almost all the wineries we visited were also “agriturismo” (Italian for Bed & Breakfast) properties, so overnight stays are also possible.

While some white wines are produced (mostly from Trebbiano and Malvasia), including a number of excellent Vin Santo wines (sweet dessert-style wines made from grapes that have been hung to dry and concentrate their sugars before being pressed), most wines are reds made from Sangiovese with other grapes like Canaiolo & Colorino blended in depending on winemaker preference.

The following is a list of wineries we visited and found made exceptional wines:

Diletta Malenchini, Malenchini Winery

Malanchini. ( ) Owned by the Malanchini family since the 1830s and run by Diletta Malenchini. The family also operates an Agriturismo on property and hosts weddings in season. Wines to look for include Chianti and  Chianti Riserva which is made from 100% Sangiovese.

Le Querce wines

La Querce. ( ). Located in Impruneta, La Querce’s wines are made by Marco Ferretti, who is also the current president of the Colli Fiorentini Consorzio of producers. Wines to try include Sorretolle, La Torretta Riserva, La Querce Toscana, and M.

With Camilla Carrega, Volognano (listen to our show with Camilla. Scroll to the end of this post.

Volognano. ( ). A fully restored 11th century castle and adjoining medieval village is the backdrop for Volognano’s wines which are delightfully modern in style. Camilla Carrega, third generation of the current ownership runs the winery and extensive agriturismo. Wines to look for include their Toscana Bianco, a delicious blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia, Noi Chianti CF, Baccante, a Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and their Vin Santo, Aetius.

In the vineyards at Tenuta San Vito

Tenuta San Vito, ( ). Founded in 1960, Tenuta San Vito is 12 miles from Florence and comprises 300 acres with 70 of those dedicated to grapes. They also make some wonderful olive oils and run an agriturismo for overnight stays. Wines include Chianti CF and Chianti CF Riserva, San Vito also makes a delicious Vin Santo aged in Chestnut barrels.

DOP Salumi at Fattoria San Michele

San Michele a Torri. ( ). One of the more established producers in Colli Fiorentini, San Michele has 400 acres with 60 under vine. They also produce olive oils and Cinta Senese DOP salumi from their heritage breed pigs. They make a number of wines and their Chianti CF and CF Riservas are top notch.

Tasting at Quei2

Quei 2. ( Certainly the smallest producer on this list, and maybe the smallest we’ve ever seen. Quei 2 makes only 6000 bottle per year from grapes grown in 50 year old vineyards, but the owners, both former engineers with a passion for making wine, are investing both time and resources to secure their future. Wines include Le Casine Bianco, Rex Rubrum Chianti CF, and 208 Rosso, a Sangiovese/Merlot/Canaiolo blend.

La Colombaia Villa di Bagnolo. ( ). A beautifully restored Villa and property owned by the Beltrami family since the 1970s, La Colombaia makes a variety of wines including Chianti and Vin Santo. The property is also available for private events. Their Terre delle Fornaci was a favorite.

Marco Bartollini and his sister

Fattoria di Bagnolo. ( ) Located directly across the vineyard from La Colombaia, this winery is one of three multi-use properties in Tuscany owned by the Marchesi Bartolini Bardelli family and is their premium wine estate. Marco Bartolini led the winemaking for the last 30 years, and recently passed oversight to his sister. Their Chianti CF wines are made from traditional Tuscan varieties like Sangiovese and Colorino, They also make a Super Tuscan called Caprorosso, which is very good.

At Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio. ( Founded in 1962 by the Rocchi family, Castelvecchio is run by brother and sister Filippo and Stefania Rocchi and produces about 100,000 bottles annually from its 75 acres of vineyards planted to traditional Tuscan and French grape varieties. Favorites included Il Castelvecchio Chianti CF, Vigna La Quercia Chianti CF riserva, and Numero Otto, a red made from 100% Canaiolo.

Tenuta Il Corno

Tenuta Il Corno. ( A sprawling estate built in the 12th century and once the summer residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Il Corno has been owned  by the Frova family since 1911. Maria Giulia Frova runs the wine program and is nicknamed the “Queen of Colorino” due her affinity for, and expertise in coaxing Colorino to life in the bottle. “Corno Divino” is a wonderful restaurant on property, and accommodations are also available.

Ugo Bing and his son

Fattoria de Fiano. ( Winemaker Ugo Bing’s family has been growing grapes on their property since the 1940s and make some deliciously interesting wines form their panoramic hill-top vineyards, including some from grapes not widely planted in the region like Petit Manseng and Abrostino (only planted by about five producers). Wines include Chianti CF, Fianesco (their Super Tuscan), Pugni d’Abrusco (a red blend of Pugnitello and Agrostino) and Vin Santo.

Wines at Le Torri

Le Torri. ( ). Milan native Beatrice Mozzi runs this agriturismo and winery for her family, and winemakers Giovanni Sordi & Alessandro Maffi make some beautiful wines, including Chianti CF and CF Riserva. Other projects include a delightful Brut Rose sparkling wine (great to sip by the property’s pool while staying the weekend), Soleluna Chardonnay, and Magliano Super Tuscan.

Fattorie Gianozzi

Fattorie Giannozzi. ( An historic winery owned by the Giannozzi family since the early 1700s. Gianozzi was one of the first chianti producers to export to the U.S. (in the 1930s) and are well established in the U.S. market. Brothers Luca and Simone Giannozzi run the wine, olive oil, and agriturismo.

Wines of Gualandi. Listen to our show with Guido Gualandi on The Connected Table LIVE

Gualandi. ( By far the most unique of Tuscany’s wineries. Guido Gualandi’s passion for making wine extends from his passion for history and most importantly, historical winemaking methods and ancient grapes. An archeologist & teaching professor specializing in Mesopotamia, Guido actually researches how winemaking was done in ancient times and re-creates the process to make his wines. He eschews modern winemaking techniques and seeks out and revives forgotten grape varieties. His website states “archeologial wines” are the focus, but we like to call his phenominal wines “Super-Etruscans.” Wines include Montebetti Chianti CF, Gualandvs, and a beautiful Vin Santo.

Wines at Valvirginio

Valvirginio. ( Valvirginio is produced by the local cooperative winery Cantine Sociale Colli Fiorentini which is owned by about 850 small grape growers in the area.  The Cantine also operates a half dozen Valvirginio retail stores around Tuscany to sell its products which include wine, olive oil, and honey. Collorosso is their Chianti Colli Fiorentini wine.

View from Castello Poppiano

Castello di Poppiano  ( ) The Guicciardini family has been making wine at Castello di Poppiano since 1199A.D. Conte (Count) Ferdinando Guicciardini runs the show and also owns two other wineries in Tuscany which he constantly shuffles back and forth between while overseeing production. Castello di Poppiano is Chianti Colli Fiorentini’s largest producer and Ferdinando was instrumental in gaining the region DOCG status in the 1980s. His wines are well distributed, and he can often be found at the estate, always willing to spend time with guests and tell the history of the beautiful castle he and his wife Annamaria calls home.

another stunning view


Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Guido Gualandi, Gualandi


Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Camilla Carrega, Volognano


Drink Explore Melanie Young

Having a Bobal in Utiel-Requena

An early spring visit to Utiel-Requena in eastern Spain provided an immersion experience in Bobal, a voluptuous grape that makes full-bodied red wine and refreshing rosés.

We stayed in the historic part of Requena, the center of the Utiel-Requena wine route. The old town is a quiet maze of small plazas lined with cafés and shops and crooked, narrow streets, barely navigable by car. Notable sites include the large fortress, landmark churches (Iglesia Santa Maria and Iglesia de El Salvador are both national monuments), a wine museum located in the 15th century Palacio del Cid, and a silk museum (Casa del Arte Mayor de la Seda). Requena and nearby Valencia used to be a center for silk production. We stayed in the Hotel Doña Anita, which has a small café and is well-located for exploring the local attractions by foot.

Utiel-Requena: Ancient Wine Roots and Wine Route

Utiel-Requena is located on a high plateau between 1,950 and 2,950 feet above sea level and 70 kilometers from the coast of Valencia (which is both a province as well as a city). The hyphenated name Utiel-Requena represents the region’s two principal municipalities; there are nine in total. Most vineyards are located between two rivers, the Turia and Cabriel; the climate is Mediterranean with a continental influence due to the higher altitude. When I was there in late March it was chilly and windy with bright sun.

The D.O. Utiel-Requena was established in 1932; however, wine production dates to 7th century BC, more than 2,700 years ago, according to archaeologists who discovered fragments of Phoenician amphorae in the Iberian village of Villares de Caudete (also known as Kelin). Other evidence of early wine making can be seen at Las Pilillas, where ancient stone ruins remain from wineries dating back to 1 BC. Walking the paths, one may still find shards of small shards of amphorae.

The closest big city is Valencia which is worth a few days’ visit. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and a major port. It’s also the center for enjoying of one of Spain’s most well-known dishes, paella, which was brought over by the Moors from Africa when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 A.D.

Bobal: A Voluptuous Grape

The name Bobal refers to a “bull’s head” which resembles the shape of the grape clusters. I couldn’t help but compare the word to “bulbous,” which the grape is. It is the third most widely planted grape in Spain after Airen and Tempranillo. Seventy-five percent of grape production in Utiel-Requena is Bobal; the varietal is also cultivated in the D.O.’s Alicante, Manchuela, Murcia and Valencia. Its cousin is Bovale, cultivated in Sardinia, and Nieddera in France. Bobal is a hearty grape that can grow well in poor soil, usually on bush vines or trellis. Thanks to Utiel-Requena’s higher altitude, this area had numerous pre-phylloxera vines. More than 50 percent of the vineyards have vines that average at least 40 years, and some more than 100 years-old.  We were there weeks before bud break, and the low, gnarly vines resembled wizened hands stretching out from the soil, which is predominantly alluvial and clay with limestone.

Bobal is less reductive than Tempranillo and contains high tannins and polyphenols. It is harvested later than Tempranillo around the same time as Cabernet Sauvignon. The red wines are usually full-bodied with dark cherry, blueberry and cacao notes, with hints of clove and thyme. Bobal contains no pyrazines, a compound which can add a slight vegetal character to some red wines. Eighty percent of the Utiel-Requena’s Bobal wines are exported. Interestingly, Japan is a large market for Bobal wines. Many are available in the U.S.

Bobal: The wines

There are two key designations for Bobal wines. “Bobal Alta Expression” is reserved for single varietal wines, with or without oak aging. Under this designation, the vineyards must be at least 35 years with lower yields, and no irrigation is allowed. “Bobal with Specific Mention” is for rosé wines and other 100 percent Bobal wines. One may find “Aged,” “Reserva,” “Gran Reserva,” “Superior,” “Early Harvest,” and “Barrel-Aged” with mention of Utiel-Requena on any rendition of the wines.

During our visit, we tasted many expressions of the Bobal grape including a sparkling Blanc de Noir from Pago de Tharsys, the first and only winery to make a sparkling Bobal wine.

Here is a rundown of the wineries we visited and some observations:

Amphorae at Ladrón de Lunes

Bodegas & Viñedos Ladrón de Lunas: The name of this winery which translates to “moon thief” is tied to its underground caves lined with giant amphorae, the traditional ways the wines have been made. Fernando Martinez, sixth generation winemaker, shared the story behind the name “Ladrón de Lunas” which, just a hint,  involves love, a promised kiss, a broken heart and murder.  I enjoyed the the Ladrón de Lunes Exclusive LDL.

Winemaker Vincent Garcia and daughter, Rebecca, Pago de Tharsys

Pago de Tharsys: Founded in 2002, the winery is a Pago, which indicates “wines of unique character.” We started with an organic barrel-fermented Chardonnay called Ana Carlota Suria 2017, named after the owner’s wife. I loved this wine lemony-verbena notes and slight creaminess due to the two months of aging in French oak. I also enjoyed the sparkling “Único Brut Reserva” a blanc de noir made from 100 percent Bobal, made in the methode traditionelle style. We tasted three vintages; a 2015 aged 36 months in bottle before disgorging; a 2014 Brut Reserva aged 48 months in bottle before disgorging; and a 2013 Brut Reserva aged 40 months in bottle before disgorging and then another 24 months in bottle before release. All had soft Asian pear apple essence and crispness and more toasty characters with aging.

The Parsimonia wines of Bodegas Vibe

Bodegas Vibe: The owner of this winery runs a catering business and restaurant named Contrapunto in Valencia. Naturally the focus is making food-friendly Bobal wines. We also had the chance to taste a delightful aromatic white wine named Parsimonia made from the Tardana grape, which is also native to Utiel-Requena. This grape ripens late; thus, the name which is derived from the Spanish word for late – tarde. Our tasting in a private home was led by Raúl Vincent Bezjak, son of the owner, and winemaker, Juan Carlos Garcia.  The 2017 100 percent Bobal was silky and spicy with intense plum, blueberry and cacao notes.

Old vines at Bodega Cherubino Valsangiacomo

Bodega Cherubino Valsangiacomo: Marta Valsangiacomo, fifth generation family member led our tour. The family was from the Italian side of Switzerland where they started a winery in 1831 in the canton of Ticino. It grew into a larger wine production and export company. In 1997, the family relocated facilities and headquarters to Utiel-Requena. Its San Juan vineyards, located on a plateau 750 meters above sea level, have vines averaging 40 to 60 years old; however, we also saw some 100-year-old vines.

Concrete “egg” tanks at Chozas Carrascal

Chozas Carrascal: This winery, opened in 2002, is surrounded by large bronze wine-themed sculptures. It contains an impressive collection of more than two million wine labels from around the world carefully cataloged in its museum-like lobby. Chozas Carrascal’s wines are 100 percent certified organic. Winemaker Julián López Peidro, grandson of the founder, led us through a tour and tasting, noting that  Chozas Carrascal is the first winery in the region to produce its wines in concrete (since 2003). I was partial to the lush Los Ochos, a blend of eight grapes: Bobal (30%) then percentages of Monastrell, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

A tasting in the barrel room at Dominio de la Vega: Daniel and Emilo Exposito with Export Director, Alejandro Martin

Dominio de la Vega: This winery is run by a father and son, Emilio and Daniel Exposito, who worked as grape growers for many years before establishing their own winery in 1992 in an 18th century estate. They produce wines from three vineyards. We started off with a delightful sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc aged 13 months before moving into the Bobal wines. The Mírame 2018 rosé was a spicier style made from Bobal and Pinot Noir. We tasted several vintages of Finca La Beate 100 percent Bobal, including a 2016, 2012 and 2006, demonstrating how nicely wines made from this varietal can age.


Tasting wines in the old fortress in Requena with Coviñas

Coviñas: Established in 1965, Grupo Coviñas is the largest winery in the Utiel-Requena region representing a cooperative of 3000 farmers. Our host, Manolo, compared Bobal to “a mix between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, noting it is a wine that doesn’t check you out.” Our tasting, held in the bell tower at the Fortress included a variety of wines. I was taken by the Aula Rosé made from 100 percent Bobal, for it refreshing melon notes. Another pleasant easy drinking wine was the oak-aged 2018 Authentico 100 percent Bobal.


Marqués de Atrio: This winery was founded by the Rivero family in the late 19th century and is now majority-owned by Changyu, a Chinese corporation. The family also produced wines in Rioja, Navarra and Rías Baixas. This tasting rook place in another underground cellar by candlelight. The best-selling wine is called Faustino, a blend of 90 percent Bobal and 10 percent Tempranillo, aged in French oak for 15 months. I was partial to the 2013 Faustina Reserva.

Tasting in the vineyards at Bodega Sierra Norte

Bodega Sierra Norte: Tasting these wines in the vineyard under tree on a brilliant sunny day was the perfect finale to our tour. The vineyards had some of the rockiest soil I had ever seen, which we all navigated delicately as we walked through them to the tasting led by winemaker, Manolo Olmo, and Export Director Ricardo Calatayud. Bobal was first planted in 1914, and the winery was one of the first to produce certified organic wines. I was particularly intrigued by this winery’s Pasión rose,

This trip was hosted by the Consejo Regulador for D.O. Utiel-Requena.

One of our paellas at lunch. Served with Bobal, of course!


Grand finale dinner at Cafe Madrid in Valencia