Category Archives: Italian White Wine

Wine Gifts

Manufacturers of wine gadgets often claim that their product will improve your wine drinking experience.  Most turn out to be nothing more than gimmicks.  But a few months ago I went to a demonstration of the Coravin Wine Access System and was very impressed.  It allows users to pour and enjoy wine from a bottle without pulling the cork!IMG_3437

Greg Lambrecht, the inventor and founder of the company, demonstrated how the Coravin worked. A thin hollow needle is passed through the foil and cork to access the wine.  Then the bottle is filled with argon, an inert gas. The pressurized argon pushes the wine through the needle so it flows into your glass without permitting any oxygen to enter the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally seals itself.  The wine remaining in the bottle continues to evolve naturally.  Five ounces of wine can be removed at one time.IMG_3432

Greg turned the bottle over but no wine seeped out. He had a bottle of Vietti Barolo “Castiglione” 2008 and had written on the label the date when wine was first removed with the Coravin–it was over a year ago. I know the Vietti wines and this was showing very well with no signs of age despite the missing wine.  Greg did the same with a white wine with the same results.  Greg said restaurants could use the Coravin for their wine by-the-glass program and retail stores for wine tasting.  For home use, you could drink a glass of white with one course and a glass of red with another.  It is also useful for older wines with corks that are difficult to remove

Felidia Restaurant has a special Coravin by-the-glass list of upscale wines.  The people that I know that have the Coravin are very happy with it.  Hoping I will get one for Christmas!  The Coravin cost $299 and the Coravin Capsule three-pack is $29.95 and for a video. IMG_4446

For those who enjoy older wines and want to ensure easy cork removal, there is also the Durand. It is intended to remove only older fragile corks from bottles with an inside neck opening of approximately 3/4 inch. Basically, the Durand is a combination corkscrew and Ah-so. $125


Friends of Wine: In Vino Veritas by Michael Belardo. This is a photo essay of people in the wine business by a gifted photographer who is also in the wine business. There is a great picture of me sitting in the cellar of the legendary Bottega del Vino in Verona.

Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines by Tom Hyland. The book is divided by region and there are descriptions of 550 wines from more than 475 producers.  Also available on Kindle.  www.Amazon.comIMG_3148


Here are a few wine gift ideas. Since all of these wines will age, the prices of the older vintages will be higher.

Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore, single vineyard, Methodo Classico. 100% Chardonnay $95

Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 100% Trebbiano – Edorardo Valentini  (Abruzzo) $95

Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos,” 100% Chardonnay. Rene & Vincent Dauvissant (Chablis) $165

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 100% Verdicchio. Aged in large oak barrels (botti) — Villa Bucci (Marche) $ 47

 Etna Bianco Superiore “Pietramarino” 100% Carricante –Benanti (Sicily) $48IMG_3439

 Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, 100% Montepuliciano – Emidio Pepe (Abruzzo) $85  Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

Barbaresco “Ovello” 100% Nebbiolo – Produttori del Barbaresco (Piedmont) $57

 Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

 Barolo “Vigna Elena”  100% Rosè a sub-variety ofNebbiolo – Cogno (Piedmont) $85

 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 70%  Corvina Veronese and 30% Rondinella – Bertani (Veneto) $88

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Filed under Coravin, Durand, French White Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

Wine and White Truffles at SD26 in NYC

This is the holiday season but it is also the season for white truffles. As the weather turns colder one can dream of Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo and il tartufo bianco of Alba on pasta, risotto and eggs. Sometimes the dream becomes a reality.  On Tuesday afternoon, a friend called and asked if I was free Thursday night.  When I said yes,  he invited me to join him and two friends for the white truffle gala dinner at SD26 in NYC.  Of course I accepted!

Beni di Batasiolo, a wine producer from Piedmont whose wines I know and like would supply the wines.  It promised to be a very memorable evening.


Tony May Presenting Our Truffle

The main dining room was filled to capacity.  Tony May and his daughter Marisa May, the restaurant owners, graciously welcomed the guests.

The hors d’oeuvres were served at the table and included robiola cheese and mushrooms on toast, crostini with cured lard and anchovy (a favorite), and tartra Piemontese with crispy sage and paddlefish caviar on olive oil potato purèeIMG_4361

The wine was the Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Granee” DOCG 2012 100% Cortese. The vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity which made it go very well with all the hors d’oeuvres.

Our Truffle

Our Truffle

Each table of diners received a very large white truffle placed on the table with a truffle cutter. The truffle was ours to grate on the next three courses.  Tony May spoke about the truffles and showed us how to grate it.  Every one covered their dishes with the truffle, but it was so big that there was some left over and each of us took some home. Michele made pasta with the truffle the next evening.

Beef Crudo

Beef Crudo

The first course was Fassone beef crudo with fresh porcini and olio extra virgine novello served with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2011 “Bricco di Vergne,” 100% Dolcetto. The vineyard is located between the towns of La Morra and Barolo, on very steep slopes facing southwest at 480 meters. The soil has layers of sand and sandstone, which lightens the structure of the mainly marly soil. Grapes are harvested by hand around the last week in September. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place with maceration on the skins between 8 to 10 days. This is an elegant, well balanced fruity wine with a lot of red fruit and a hint of cherries that worked very well with this dish.

Truffles and an Egg

Truffles and an Egg

The menu said Sunchokes and Potato Gratin with young Fontina and chives, but what arrived was toast with melted Fontina topped with a poached egg.  The warmth of the egg brought out the aroma of the truffles we shaved on top.  It was wonderful–I just love truffles and eggs.

 We had this with the Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” 2011, 100% Barbera. The vineyards are in Barolo and La Morra at 400/450 meters, facing south and southwest in the area that is usually reserved for Nebbiolo.IMG_4363

It is calcareous soil rich in potassium and the vines are 55 years old. The excellent position and the age of the vines along with the soil makes it a Barbera with unique qualities that can age. The harvest took place on Oct 2nd. Alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins is in stainless steel tanks for 10/12 days. In the spring the wine is transferred into oak barrels (second passage) where it matures for 12/15 months. After careful sampling the wine is assembled into the final product. The wine remains in bottle for 8/10 months before release.  This is a Barbera with good structure, tannin, fruit and acidity and it will age.

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

The next course was the Toma Piemontese filled ravioli del plin, with toasted hazelnuts and sage, a classic  Piemontese dish.  This was a perfect combination with the Barbaresco DOCG 20010 made from 100% Nebbiolo. The area of production is the semi-circle of hills surrounding the three ancient villages of Barbaresco, Nieve and Treiso and part of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a tiny village overlooking the Tanaro River. Harvesting takes place from Oct 10 to 20.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place along with long maceration on the skins in stainless steel. The wine is aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. This is a very traditional Barbaresco and it was perfect with this dish.IMG_4364

Last but not least there was pan-seared saddle of venison, barbera wine infused pear, and foie gras. Two Barolo’s were served with this dish.  The Barolo DOCG “Vigneto Boscareto” 2003 made from 100% Nebbiolo in its subvarities: Michet, Lampia and Rosè from the village of Serralunga. The soil is marl composed of limestone and clay, intermingled with sand. The terrain is hilly and the vineyard faces south/southwest at 300 to 400 meters. There are 3,700 vines per hectare and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The training system is classic guyot modified with arch canes. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in October. There is traditional red wine fermentation with maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. After fermentation the wine is aged in traditional oak casks for at least two years and one year in bottle before release. 2003 was a very hot vintage but this wine was showing well. There were hints of ripe fruit, plums, spice, figs and tea.IMG_4366

Barolo “ Corda della Briccolina” 1996 100% Nebbiolo from the three sub varieties. The vineyard is facing southwest which in this area it is called a vigneto di mezzogiorno. The soil is calcareous marl rich in limestone and calcium carbonate. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place followed by 15 days of maceration then a decanting process. The wine is aged for at least two years in barriques and one year in bottle before release. 1996 was an excellent vintage for Barolo. This wine has aromas and flavors of red berries with hints of cedar, spice, licorice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_4367

For dessert there was a “Domori” Dark Chocolate Tortino and white truffle gelato. Moscato D’Asti “Bosc D’la Rei” 2012, made from100% Moscato Bianco accompanied the dessert. The grapes are grown in soil that is marly and calcareous and the terrain is hilly. The exposure is northwest, there are 3,500 plants per hectare and the vineyard is at 380 to 410 meters. Average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is guyot modified into small arches. Harvesting is by hand the last week of September. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place and the juice is cooled to 0°C. and stored in refrigerated vats. Fermentation (partially fermented with abundant residual sugar) begins a month before bottling. It is a very slow process and the alcohol reaches 5.5% by volume. This is an elegant aromatic dessert wine with hints of overripe fruit.

The Executive Chef at SD26 is Matteo Bergamini

The event and dinner exceeded my every expectation!

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Beni di Batasiolo, Dolcetto, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, SD 26, SD26, Tony May, Truffles

Meeting a Facebook Friend who Owns a Winery in Piedmont

 Massimo Pastura is a friend that I met through Facebook. I am always interested in his postings since he is the owner of Cassina La Ghersa in Piedmont. Recently Massimo contacted me and said that he was going to be in NYC and could we meet for lunch. He asked if he could bring some of his wine for me to taste. Since I knew of his winery, but had never tasted the wine, I was looking forward to our meeting.

Massimo Pastura

Massimo Pastura

Over lunch Massimo said that the winery is family owned and managed and he is the fourth generation. The winery is located in the hills between Nizza Monferrato and Moasca. His winery uses only the traditional grape varieties  the area and they are very proud of the different styles of Barbera that they produce. Massimo made it clear that they do sustainable farming– no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.

The WinesIMG_4304

Gavi “Il Poggio” 2011 made from 100% Cortese. The grapes are estate grown. The vineyard is between the towns of Gavi and Novi Liqure. The training of the vines is vertical trellis and simple guyot and grass is grown between the rows.  There are 4,500 vines/hectares and the soil is calcareous, limestone with a lot of stones. The vines are over 60 years old and they face southwest at 350 meters. Grapes are hand harvested in September. The grapes are crushed and soft-pressed after 12 hours of cryomaceration (holding the crushed grapes and the skins at extremely low temperatures before fermentation.) Static decanting of the must takes place for 12 hours before starting the fermentation with special selected yeasts inoculated in the must. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a period of 10/12 days depending on the vintage. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 6 months.  Weekly vigorous stirring of the wine takes place in order to keep the lees in suspension and assure an adequate balance. After 2 months in bottle the wine is released. The wine has aromas and flavors of peach, tropical fruit, a touch of lime, nice minerality and good acidity. $20IMG_4305

Colli Tortonesi Timorasso DOC Bianco “Sivoy” (meaning slide or slipping) 2010. The soil of the Siovy hill is clay and very hard and the rain water slips down very fast into the valley.  The wine is mostly Timorosso with a little Cortese. Massimo said that the Timorosso grape is only produced in the Colli Tortonesi and there are only 52 hectares of vines. Timorasso is a very old indigenous variety which was almost completely ignored during the 1960’s and 1970’s but has made a comeback. Massimo made it clear that wines made from this grape get better with time and can age up to 10 years or more. The average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is vertical trellis and simple guyot. There are 5,000 wines per hectare and the vineyard faces southwest. The harvest takes place in September. The grapes are crushed and soft pressed with a horizontal membrane press after 36/48 hours cryomaceration. Static decanting of the must tales place for 14/16 hours before the alcoholic fermentation (in stainless steel tanks for 15/20 days) starts using special select yeast inoculated in the must. The wine is on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and 8/10 months in bottle before release. $20IMG_4306

Barbera d’Asti “Piagè”   DOCG 2010 100% Barbera. In the Middle Ages Piagè was the place where the toll was collected. Grapes come from local estate grown selected vineyards. There are 5,000 wines per hectares and the average age of the vines is 10/15 years and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is mainly clayey limestone with rocks. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, skin contact is about 12 days and there is frequent pumping. Malolactic fermentation takes place and heating if necessary by means of inoculation of malolactic bacteria to facilitate the start of the fermentation. The wine is then left to settle in cement tanks for a few months. Massimo said that this was his every day Barbera. The wine was very easy to drink with nice aromas amd flavors of red berries, a hint of cherry and current and good acidity. This is a red wine that can go with a number of different foods.$14

Barbera D’Asti DOCG Superiore Nizza “Vignassa” 1999 100% Barbera. Massimo said that the Vignassa vineyard was the first one planted by his grandfather after the vineyards were destroyed by phyloxera. The vines were grafted onto American rootstock “St George” aka “Rupestris du Lot” which is resistant to phyloxera. Over the years the St George rootstock became more and more deformed so everyone started to call the vineyard Vignassa- ugly-vines. He said that when they dig up one of the old vines the roots go down as much as five feet. The average age of the vines is 90 years. Before the fermentation begins the “salasso” (Italian for siagneè) where the juice is blended off the must after limited contact with the skin. Massimo said this gives a  higher content of extract, which makes the wine suitable  for longer aging. Fermentation takes place in French oak barrels of 52HL. The must is left in contact with the skin for 18/20 days. The dèlestage aspirates all of the must, which determines the fall of the cap on the bottom of the tank.The wine is aged in new French oak barriques: fine grain and medium toast for 24 months. The barrels are seasoned for 3 years before they are used. This is a big wine that is almost 15 years old and showing no sign of age. $75IMG_4307

Colli Tortonesi 2011 Croatina DOC 100% Croatina. Massimo said that he just started making wine from this grape a few years ago. Massimo said the grape was also known as Bonarda and Uva Rara. The vineyard is Tenuta Mongualdone in Sarezzano and the average age of the vines is 10 years. The soil is dark clay. Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, with selected yeast, for 8-10 days with pumping over, followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is not filtered but lightly fined. The wine is aged in two, three and four yeas old French barriques. Only 2,000 cases are produced. $20. The distributor is T. Edward Wine, NYC

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Filed under Barbera, Cassina La Ghersa, Croatina, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Massimo Pastura, Timorasso, Uncategorized

First Look at a New Import!

Tasting wines from a producer that I do not know is always very interesting.  Two brothers own the winery and it bears their name:  Società Agricola Marco & Nicolass Barollo.


Marco Barollo

Located in the Veneto near the town of Treviso, it was purchased by the brothers in 2001. There are 45 hectares of vines and they produce 300,000 bottles annually. These wines will not be imported in the U.S until January, so this is a first review of a new winery that has joined the Grapes on the Go fine wine portfolio for 2014.

I was invited to a tasting and lunch at SD 26 in NYC by Gary Grunner, president of Grapes on the Go.  Representing the winery was Marco Barollo, an owner and the export manager.

The WinesIMG_4269

Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV 100% Glera. The soil is medium-grained, limestone and clay, the training is by the sylvoz system (horizontal shoot from which fruit branches curve downward) and there are 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in September. The Charmat method is used, consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb-tanks for 90 days. Aging is 3 to 4 months. Marco said that the Charmat method produces smaller longer-lasting bubbles. The wine is kept at a low temperature and they only use as much as they need so the Prosecco is always fresh and is bottled all year round.

Marco said that it could have been labeled Extra Dry because the residual sugar falls exactly between the two classifications (12 grams). This is an elegant Prosecco, with small bubbles, citrus aromas and flavors, hints of apple and white peach and good acidity. The bottle is wrapped in yellow cellophane, which makes for a sophisticated presentation.  $16IMG_4267

Pinot Bianco 2012 IGT Venezie 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes is by hand in early September. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by a settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There is daily batonnage. Marco said that the wine remains on the lees for 6 months and 6 more months in bottle before release. Wines made in Italy from the Pinot Bianco grape have not gotten the attention they deserve in this country. They are excellent white wines and are very reasonably priced. This one is crisp and dry with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of apple, a floral characteristic and very good acidity that makes it an excellent wine with food.   $16IMG_4268

Frater 2012 Doc Piave 100% Merlot The training is low-spurred cordon with 3,570 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration lasts for 12 days. Daily pumpovers, devatting and malolactic fermentation take place. The wine is aged for 3 months in bottle before release. Marco said that this wine showed the true character of Merlot from the Veneto. This is a medium bodied soft and velvety wine that has the aromas of the grape that it is made from. There is good fruit with hints of cherry, currants and a touch of blueberry. I was very impressed with this wine and it just kept on getting better and better in the glass.  $16IMG_4266

Frank IGT Veneto 2010 100% Cabernet Franc. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,100 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand at the end of September. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration, followed by devatting and malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in Allier barriques 50% new and 50% one year old and 6 months in bottle before release. Marco pointed out that the wine did not have any of those ‘green’ flavors and aromas often found in Cabernet Franc from Italy. The wine has hints of vanilla, raspberry and cassis with a touch of pepper, it is international in style but not over the top.  $18

I believe that all of these wines are an excellent value for the money!

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Prosecco, Societa Agricola Marco&Nicolass Barollo, Veneto

Catalanesca and Caprettone: Grapes from the Heart of Mount Vesuvio


I first discovered wines made from the Catalanesca and Caprettone grapes at Lo Stuzzichino Restaurant in Sant’Agata sui due Golfi.  The owner of the restaurant, Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio, is very knowledgeable about the wines of Campania and after lunch we had a long conversation.IMG_1812

Mimmo asked me if I had ever had wine made from the Caprettone or Catalanesca grapes which are cultivated in the heart of the Mount Vesuvio National Park. When I said that I hadn’t, he gave me a bottle of wine from Società Agricola Cantina Olivella. It was a Vesuvio Bianco DOC 2011 made from the Caprettone grape. The name of the wine is Emblema. I thanked him and when we returned to the apartment we rented on the Amalfi Coast we had the wine with dinner and really liked it.

After trying the Emblema, I ordered other wines from Cantina Olivella whenever I saw them including Katá made from 100% Catalanese, and Lacrima Bianco made from Caprettone and Catalanesca.

Back home, I mentioned the wines and how much I liked them in one of my blog posts.  Soon, I got a message form Livio Panebianco of Panebianco importers/distributors. Livio said that after reading my blog, he was going to add all three of the wines to his portfolio. They are now available in NYC at Del Posto, Aroma and Ribalta restaurants, and at Turtle Dove, a new wine store at 30 Clinton Street.

Livio provided the following information about Cantina Olivella. He said it is located in Sant’Anastasia, a small village near Naples at the foot of Mount Vesuvio. The winery’s name comes from an ancient source of water known as Olivella Source near which, in 1974 archeologists discovered a fragment of a Roman wine jar with the engraved name of an ancient winemaker named Sex Cati Festi, which became the symbol of the Olivella bottles.

Cantine Olivella was one of the first wineries to register as producer of Catalanesca a grape variety originally from Catalonia, Spain.  Alfonso I of Aragon introduced it around 1450. The volcanic soil of this area is the perfect environment for the growing of this grape. The winery uses organic methods in the production of its grapes.

These white wines need at least 3 years of age before they are ready to drink!IMG_4168

KATÁ IGP Catalanesca Del Mount Somma 100% Catalanesca The grapes are carefully selected and hand harvested in the first half of October.  Fermentation and maturation is with natural yeast and takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.

The refining process “sur lie” (lees contact starts is stainless steel and ends in the bottle after a three month period. The wine has very nice citrus aromas and flavors, with hints of apricot, cantaloupe and acidity. There is a mineral aspect to the wine, which may come from the volcanic soil.IMG_4166

Emblema Vesuvio DOC Bianco 100% Caprettone. It is said that the grape clusters resemble a sheep’s (capra) beard and that is how it got its name. For a time it was believed to be another name for the Coda di Volpe grape but DNA testing proved that they are not related. Vinification is the same as above. There are aromas of citrius fruit and herbs, with very good acidity, minerality a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste.IMG_4170

Lacrima Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco DOC  80% Caprettone and 20% Catalanesca  Vinification is the same as above. This is a well-balanced wine with flavors and aromas of dried fruit and dried flowers with good acidity and undertones of minerality.

Each one of the wines are a pleasure to drink and they have their own distinctive aroma and flavor.


Filed under Cantina Olivella, Carpettone, Catalanesca, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi

De Conciliis Wine Dinner at Aroma Restaurant NYC

De Conciliis Wine Dinner at Aroma Restaurant NYC

As many of you know, I spend a lot of time in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast. I believe that the white wines of Campania come from the most diverse grapes and are the best wines that southern Italy has to offer. Therefore I was delighted to accept an invitation from Vito Polosa, Chef/Owner and Sommelier at Aroma restaurant in NYC for a dinner featuring the wines of De Conciliis in the Paestum region of Campania. Vito said he would match each of the wines with a dish from the Campania area

Vito Polosa of Aroma Restaurant

Vito Polosa of Aroma Restaurant

The speaker for the dinner was Dino Tantawi, owner of Vignaioli Selections, the importer and distributor of De Conciliis.  Dino has a great passion for Italian wine.  Anthony De Conciliis, a cousin of Bruno Conciliis, the owner of the winery, was also there. I had a long discussion with him about pizza restaurants in Naples and restaurants in Campania.

Dino told us that Bruno Conciliis has a respect for nature and the land. This means that the use of chemicals is kept to a minimum and the winery is moving from being organic to biodynamic and should be certified by 2015. Natural yeast is used whenever possible. The winery has been energy self-sufficient since 2007.

The Wines

Selim Spumante Brute NV made from Aglianico and Fiano.IMG_3949

Area of production is the Alto Clinto in Campania. The vineyards are at 750 ft with a southwest exposure. The soil is flinty, calcareous with mixed clay. The Charmat method is used to produce this sparkling wine. Dino said Fiano and the Aglianico are picked early while the Aglianico is still pink in color. The gapes are shipped to Valdobbiadene (famous for Prosecco) for fermentation. Dino explained that ripeness of the grapes causes a low PH balance of 3.1 giving the wine a dry and fresher taste on the palate. This is the first Aglianico-based sparkling wine produced in Campania. $21

Bruno Conciliis is a big jazz fan and if you read the name of the wine backward it is Miles in honor of a song by Miles Davis the jazz musician.

Cozza e Lardo

Crostino Cozza e Lardo

With the sparkling wine Vito served an assortment of appetizers including crostino “cozze e lardo,” with mussels and lard, which was a very good combination.IMG_3953

Donnaluna 2011 Made from 100% Fiano. The grapes are picked in the morning from 6 different vineyards. Then a few hours of cold maceration takes place after which the grapes are washed and then fermented. Dino said that the Fiano here was different from the Fiano di Avellino. The exposure is southeast and the soil is clay, tufo and mixed sand and rocks. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 6 days. The wine is then racked into stainless steel tanks where it remains for 5 months. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before it is released.$28IMG_3954

This was served with “pesce marinato”, marinated fish. Vito explained that this was a typical Neapolitan dish made from different fish and was left in the refrigerator and could be eaten when anyone felt hungry.

Someone asked why the name of the wine was written upside down on the label Dino said Bruno did it as a joke saying “if you drink from the bottle the name is in the right position!” The is a very elegant Fiano with good citrus  aromas and flavors, a hint of honey and almonds, nice minerality and good acidityIMG_3969

Greco di Tufo”Oro” DOCG  2011 100% Greco di Tufo-these grapes were purchased by Bruno from a friend. The vineyard is in La Sela-Fontanarosa (Avellino). The exposure is North-Northwest and the soil is chalk, volcanic and clay. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and batonnage is for two months. The wine is then racked into stainless steel tanks where it is aged for 7 months and 3 months in bottle before release. The wine was a golden color and Dino said that was because the wine spent some time on the lees. $20IMG_3970

With this wine we had one of my favorite dishes spaghettino vongole veraci e ciliegino napoletano, spaghetti with tiny clams and cherry tomatoes,  and it was perfection. This is a wine with a golden color, nice body, good fruit, a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.

Ra! (passito) Dino said that the wine is mostly Aglianico with a little Barbera. The grapes come from two different vineyards; Carpinet vineyard which is at 300 mts with a northern exposure and Cannetiello which is at 150 meters with a southwest exposure.  The soil is sandstone, soft marl and sandy shale and calcareous clay with sand. The harvest is at the end of October and the training system is single guyot.

The grapes are dried for six months (appassimento) in a shady ventilated area. Manual destemming and selection takes place. The wine is aged for 4 to 5 days in class demijohns. Dino said this was done to preserve the freshness and flavors of the wine.IMG_3990

With this dessert wine Vito served a traditional Neapolitan dessert, eggplant & chocolate tortino. What made it a perfect combination was the intense dark fruit aromas and flavors of the wine and the hint of cherry. Dino said that the wine was named after the Egyptian sun god “Ra”! because the wine is made from the concentrated power of the sun. This is a very special dessert wine and only a very small amount is made. At this time it is not available in the US.

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Filed under campania, De Concillis Winery, Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Passito, Ra! Passito, Sparkling wine, Spumante, Vignaioli selections, Vito Polosa

Fiorano: A visit to Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi

Alessia Fiorano Rosso Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi.

On a June day in Rome last year, the temperature was over 100 degrees as we waited outside the city records hall for Alessia Antinori to pick us up and take us to her winery. Not one of her father, Piero Antinori’s wineries, but to the winery of the late Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa, her grandfather.  I was finally going to see where Fiorano, my favorite red wine, was made.

When the Principe died a few years ago, he left half of the estate to his daughter, who is Piero Antinori’s wife and mother of Alessia.  She then gave her share of the estate to her three daughters.  Alessia lives in Rome and since the winery is only twenty minutes away, just across from the Ciampino Airport, Alessia took over the management of the estate.

The other half of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate was left to a distant cousin of the Principe who has released a 2006 Fiorano Rosso with the original Fiorano label under his own name, Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi. He also made a white Fiorano, but is using different grapes than the original.  Alessia said that she hoped they could come to some agreement about the label without going to court.

Restored Tank

Restored Tank

As we were driving to the winery Alessia told us that she was making a number of improvements since her part of the winery was in disrepair. It fact there was not much left and Alessia has undertaken a major restoration.IMG_1915

I asked her about the vines and she said that the people who had worked for her grandfather told her that he ordered them covered with dirt but then a few years later ordered them to be uncovered. In an interview with the late Italian wine writer Luigi Veronelli, Alessias Grandfather said that he would destroy all the vines so that his son-in-law would not get them because Piero did not make wine the way he did. I guess he changed his mind.IMG_1914

Alessia said that her first vintage was going to come from the vines that were uncovered.  Later, when new vineyards are planted, there will be a massal selection of old vines.  She said that the winery was almost ready for its first harvest.  Alessia said that she and her sisters hope to continue the legacy of their grandfather and of the Estate.  This is very good news.

The 1985

The 1985

Despite the very hot day, when Alessia offered to open a bottle of the 1988 Fiorano Rosso, I could not refuse the offer. As I sipped the wine I did not think about the heat only of the well-structured, elegant and smooth wine with aromas of cherry and leather, the long finish and the wonderful lingering aftertaste. This is a great wine!

The 1995

The 1995

A few months later Alessia was in New York and came to dinner at my apartment along with her husband. She brought with her a bottle of the 1995 Fiorano Bianco and a bottle of a 2010 red, which she had made. She said that this wine will be the second wine of the Tenuta di Fiorano and a label and name had not yet been chosen.IMG_2255

 In Rome I had bought a bottle of the 2006 Firoano Rosso made by the new Principe to compare.  It was an easy-drinking wine in a modern style and did not bear any resemblance to the original Fiorano Rosso.  Alessia’s wine was a much bigger, more complex wine with good fruit, but since it was a 2010 it was difficult to judge and needs time to develop.IMG_2254

I also opened a 1994 Fiorano Rosso (made by the grandfather) and it needed at least 10 more years to be ready to drink.   I believe Alessia said that the last vintage made by her grandfather was 1995.

Next time:  the story continues with a visit to the winery in May of 2013 and the improvements Alessia has made.


Filed under Alessia Antinori, Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Vernosa, Fiorano Bianco, Fiorano Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized


Rome in the spring is magical.  It is my favorite time to be there. Michele and I were spending a week in Sorrento and what better way to begin and end our travels than in Rome.



The days were becoming warmer and longer and just walking around the city and taking in the sites was a pleasure. Looking at the official seal of Rome, SPQR meaning ‘The Senate and the People of Rome,’  always reminds me that Rome was once the most important city in the world.  We sat in the outdoor cafes on sunny mornings enjoying cappuccino and cornetti and watching the world go by. At night we would stop for a Campari and soda or a Negroni at one of the roof garden bars watching the setting sun.  But as I have said before, I love the food in Rome and the highlights of the day for me are lunch and dinner.

Here are some favorite restaurants we went to on this trip. Some we have only been to a few times, others we have been going to for over 30 years.



The first time I went to Il Matriciano ( 39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55, was in 1981 and have been going back whenever I was in Rome, until two years ago.  On that trip, we sat outside and were disappointed in the service and the food.  The waiter wanted to serve us the antipasto, which included a slice of pizza, but I just wanted zucchini flowers.  He seemed to think he knew more than I about what I wanted and kept on suggesting dishes that were of no interest to me.  The menu has barely changed over the years and I always order the same things when I eat there.  It annoyed me and the experience was just not the same

We decided this year to give the restaurant another chance. On our way there, Michele said, “Let’s ask to sit inside because that is where all the Romans are.” When we arrived the owner offered us a table outside but we insisted on inside.  After moving a few tables around, we were seated. The restaurant filled up very quickly and Romans sat at every table inside.

Fragoline and Gelato

Fragoline and Gelato

Our waiter was very good considering it was a busy Sunday afternoon.  He only spoke to us in Italian which we preferred.  As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) to start. These were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella filling and more than a hint of anchovies.  I ordered the bucatini all’Amatriciana.  Along with one or two others, this is one of the classic Roman pastas. Some places serve it with rigatoni but it is not the same. Then I had abbacchio (baby lamb) roasted with potatoes. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin. For dessert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato. Michele loves fragoline and orders them every chance she gets.IMG_3159

The Barbera “Latina” 2007 from Cascina Castlet went very well with the pasta and the baby lamb. The restaurant had returned to form and produced the perfect traditional Roman meal. I was very happy.



Last year we went to restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Salita de Crescenzi, 3906 68880 3034, for the first time and liked it so much that we decided to go again this year.  Michele made a reservation on line and when we arrived in Rome we confirmed the reservation just to make sure. This is also a traditional Roman restaurant. We ordered crostini with truffles and quail egg, bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled lamb. Once again we had the fragoline with gelato for dessert.  Michele really likes the food here.IMG_3084

 The wine was the 2009 Montepulciano D’Abruzza, from Emidio Pepe.  At less than 40 euro, it was a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I expected. I should have asked them to decant the wine. Most of my experience with this wine has been with vintages that are 25 years and older.



Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. This is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and cheese. Michele likes the restaurant because it has the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome. It can also be very creative with items like the hamburger di bufala with grilled ham and a balsamic drizzle, and the burrata e alici. This time we both ordered the carbonara. Michele is right, it was terrific.IMG_3076

 The wine was the 2008 Cerasuolo (Rosè) 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro.

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. It was a chilly and cloudy afternoon in Rome as we made our way to the restaurant. We sat   inside in one of the small rooms that look onto the street.  I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci. The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. Michele had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Palatium- Enoteca Regionale Via Fattina 94   39-06-6920 2132. This is a restaurant run by the region of Lazio. All of the food is typical of the region. The wine is only from the region and a real bargain as most of them are between 10 and 14 euros. There is a very large selection. The restaurant was a few doors down from our hotel on the Via Frattina and as luck would have it we went there on the night that it rained. I had cacio e pepe which is a typical Roman dish and Michele had mozzarella in carrozza, a very large toasted sandwich.IMG_3197

We drank a bottle of Lazio I.G.P “Colle DE” Poggeri”  2011 from Cantina Stefanoni 100% Roscetto (Trebbiano Giallo). The harvest took place from 10 to 15 of October. Fermentation is on the skins for about 12 hours. The must fermentation is in wooden barrels for about two months. The color was yellow with golden reflections and the wine looked like it might have oxidized. This was not the case; it was fresh, soft and well balanced with good fruit aromas and flavors.  It is a bargain at 10 euros.


Filed under Da Giggetto, Emidio Pepe, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Palatium-Entoca Regionale, Restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Restaurants Rome, Roscetto, Roscioli, Valentini

Return to Sorrento

Michele and I have always been captivated by the scenery along the Amalfi Coast and especially the views from Sorrento. We decided to return to Sorrento again this year and rent an apartment with just such a view.

The view from our terrace

The view from our terrace

We found an apartment with a terrace and a fantastic view of Mount Vesuvius and the surrounding area. The cruise ships anchored right below the apartment, and at night so did the fireworks barge.  It looked like a private fireworks display just for us.  It was quite a sight!IMG_3101

The apartment did not have WiFi so we had breakfast in the morning and drinks at night at a cafè/bar called the Square and read our e-mail.  The first night in Sorrento we went for dinner to a restaurant called ReFood. There was a big display of fresh fish at the entrance that looked very appealing, though most of the tourists in the restaurant were eating steak.  Not a great idea.



We went for the fish and vegetable dishes which were very good.  I ordered an Etna Bianco Superiore 2006 Pietramarina from Benanti made from 100% Caracanti.IMG_3092

I had the grilled calamari and Michele had pasta with zucchini and cheese. Michele enjoys the zucchini in Italy because the variety they grow is less watery and has more flavor than the kind grown here.

One of the reasons we like to visit Sorrento is that it is easy to take the bus or the local train to visit surrounding towns and we don’t need to rent a car. One of our favorite places to go is to Restaurant Lo Stuzzchino, a scenic half hour bus ride from Sorrento in the town of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi.

The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio who is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was calling an order into the kitchen we would hear him holler “Mamma”.  It is a true family restaurant.IMG_3103

Last time we were there he introduced me to a wine made from the Caprettone grape from the area around Mount Vesuvius.  I really liked this wine and asked if he still had any. He said he had a wine made from this grape but from a different producer. So he brought over a bottle of the 2011 Caprettone from Casa Barone.



The food at Lo Stuzzichino is excellent. I ordered the ravioli again. There were six, two filled with cows milk ricotta, two from sheep and two from goat. Each pair had its own special sauce. Michele had pasta with potatoes and provolone cheese, a typical dish of the region, which she really enjoyed.

Antico Francischiello Restaurant is about 20 minutes by bus from Sorrento. It is a lovely restaurant with a great view of Capri and excellent traditional food so we returned again this year.



There was a group of Japanese tourists in the restaurant when we arrived that were having a very good time eating ravioli followed by whole fish roasted in a salt crust.  After lunch most of them ordered tea, which was served in teapots, and there were the small traditional teacups for them to drink from. The interior of the restaurant in very elegant and it is the only restaurant in the Sorrento area to be honored as one of the Historic Restaurants of Italy.

We started with a vegetable antipasto, which we had enjoyed the last time we were here, and it was just as we remembered it. The dish that was our favorite was home made pasta with artichokes and squid, something we have never had before.IMG_3142

They have a nice wine list but they were out of a number of things because they were waiting for a delivery. The owner recommended a Fiano di Avellino “Ventidui” 2011 from Villa Araiano and it was a good choice.

We also returned to Torre del Saraceno, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. The tasting menu that we ordered was 125 Euros a person but there were ten courses. My favorite course was the risotto topped with crispy seaweed.  It is a very elegant restaurant and the service is excellent. The chef Gennaro Esposito travels a lot, and in March we saw him outside SD26 in NYC where he was doing a special dinner.IMG_3132

The wine I ordered was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2006 Villa Bucci. 100% Verdicchio from vines which are 40 or 50 years old. This is a great white wine that I do not drink or write about often enough. It is aged for at least 1-1/2 years in Slavonian oak casks of 50 and 70 HL, very unusual for a white wine, plus in bottle for one year before release. It is very complex and elegant with hints of hazelnuts and honey and a touch of spice.IMG_3150

In Sorrento on the last day we returned to Restaurant Basilica. We sat outside in a corner table in the shade. I started with marinated white anchovies followed by pasta with scampi and tomatoes. Michele ordered mozzarella di bufala and said it was excellent. It looked so good that I had to order it, too.  It was delicious.IMG_3148

They had the 2004 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini, 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is one of my favorite white wines and it was about $55, less than retail in NY so I had to drink it. The waiter could not get the cork out of the bottle so he had to push it in.  Then he decanted the wine so there was no way to chill it.  We drank it at room temperature and I enjoyed it so much that I will never chill this wine again.




Filed under anchovies, Antica Francischiello, Basilica restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Restaurant REfood, Sorrento, Torre del Saraceno, Villa Bucci

Tasting Sagrantino di Montefalco

I’ve said this before and will say it again — Sagrantino di Montefalco is one of the great wines of Italy.  As a grape it ranks right up there with Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Sangiovese.

Sagrantino a is big complex wine with a very dark color, rich red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of spice, leather and prune, good acidity and a long finish.  It is a wine that can age for many years.  For more information on Sagrantino see

Sagrantino originally was a passito or sweet wine.  A little over 40 years ago they also began to make a dry version. Sagrantino in both its forms is not very well know in the U.S so whenever I have the opportunity I like to write about the wine.  They are a good buy as most of them are around $40 a bottle.

The Wine Media Guild had a tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant featuring the wines from Montefalco in Umbria.

The speakers were Guido Guardigili of Perticaia, Peter Heiborn of Tenuta Bellafonte and Marco Caprai of Arnaldo Caprai.

Here are the Sagrantinos that were at the event along with one white wine, which I really liked.


Trebbiano Spoletino 2011 Perticaia 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. Harvest takes place the third week of October. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place under inert gas. Cold static clarification  of the clear must in stainless steel tanks and the wine rests for 6 months on the fine lees. I visited this winery a few years ago and Mr Guardigli did a tasting of this wine with some local cheeses and it was a great combination. $24

Sagrantino 2007 Perticaia  The harvest takes place in the second week of October. Maceration is for at least 3 weeks with temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging is in small French oak barrels – barriques or tonneaux –  for 12 months until the malolactic fermentation has been completed, then 12 more months in vats followed by 12 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, a touch of prune and a hint of cherry, $48IMG_2873

Sagrantino 2008 Romanelli the vineyards are at 350 meters, the soil is silt-clay and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. After the grapes are hand harvested they are destemmed and lightly pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation with frequent pumping over and maceration lasts for 45 to 60 days. After racking, the wine is aged in French wood barrels ranging in size from 225 liters to 2,500 liters. The wine is filtered before being bottled and remains in the bottle for 10 months before release.

Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2007 Arnaldo Caprai.   Made from 100% Sagrantino from the Collepiano vineyard at 200-300 meters above sea level. The soil is clay-calcareous and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordone speronato and the harvest takes place from the third week in September to the beginning of October. The wine spends 24-26 months in French oak barriques; Marco said that some of the barriques were second passage. It is kept in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This is a big modern style Sagrantino and the most expensive of the tasting. It has concentrated red fruit aromas and flavors and undertones of oak and vanilla. $60IMG_2863

Sagrantino 2008 Tenuta Bellafonte This is their first vintage and their vineyards are 12 years old and are 260 to 320 meters above sea level. The training is cordone speronato and there are 5,500 plants per hectare. Mr. Heilborn explained that the grapes are not crushed, only destemmed, and are put into vats where they start to ferment without any additional yeast. Maceration takes place through the pressure on the peels and lasts about two weeks. When asked if anyone else does this for Sagrantino his answer was “no”. After the wine rests for a few weeks and is decanted a few times and is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of not less than 30 hectoliters. The malolactic fermentation takes place naturally, activated only by the cellar temperature. The wine is checked and decanted as needed for the 40 months that it remains in the oak barrels. He added that the wine is bottled without filtration and any deposits at the bottom of the bottle are an indication of the guarantee of such production choices.

Sagrantino 2007 Antonelli  Harvest begins in the second week of October, with hand picked grapes placed into boxes and then a final sorting.
Vinification is by gravity with fermented on the skins for 15-20 days at a temperature of 25 degrees; followed by malolactic fermentation. Clarification is spontaneously without filtration. Aging  in 500-liter oak barrels lightly roasted for 6 months, then in 25 hl oak barrels for 12 months; assembly and clarification takes place in cement tanks for 3 months and the wine remains in the bottle for at least 12 months before release. This is a complex and elegant wine with hints of blackberry and plum with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. I visited this winery when I was in Montefalco a few years. They make excellent wines and the highlight of the visit was a 1985 Sagrantino that was 25 years old at the time. The wine was drinking very well and it proves that Sagrantino can age. $38

Sagrantino 2006 Tenuta Castelbuono- -How can I not love this winery when they say “The decision to use large barrels over small barriques was crucial to the creation of a wine with such a long aging potential”? There are 6,250 vines per hectare and the training is spurred cordon. There is a cold pre maceration for 30 hours in wood barrels. Skin contact is for 15 to 20 days and the wine is aged 12 months in large barrels and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with aromas and flavors of blackberries and blueberries and a hint of leather. $37IMG_2869

Sagrantino 2007 Scacciadiavoli (Drive away devils) 2007 The vineyards are at 900 feet with a south/southwest exposure and the training system is spurred cordon. There are 2,300 vines per hectare.   Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is aged in different sized oak barrels: used barriques, tonneaux, and 30HL barrels for 16 months. The wine from each different type of barrels is blended together to make the final blend. It is aged in bottle for 9 months before release. $39IMG_2862

Sagrantinio 2008 Le Cimate The 19 hectare vineyard is at 360 meters with a south/southeast exposure. The soil is clay moderately calcareous with 4,400 plants per hectare. After the grapes are crushed and destemmed the skins are macerated for 20 days with three pumpovers each day. Aging is for 36 months of which 8 are in barriques and 4 in large barrels. The wine is filtered and put in bottles for 6 months before release. $NVIMG_2861

Sagrantino  2008 Colle del Saraceno –Az. Agr. Franceseco Botti This may be the oldest winery in Montefalco producing Sagrantino. It is a very traditional winery. The vineyards have a southern exposure. The wine has  an aromas of dried fruit with hints of prune and spice and a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $NV

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Colle Del Saraceno-Az. Agr. di Francesco Botti. There is a long period of natural air drying of the grapes. This is a big rich wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, cinnamon and dried fruit– it was almost liquor-like. $NVIMG_2875

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Cantina Colle Ciocco the harvest takes place at the end of September. This wine is produced from select Sagrantino grapes left to wither on the vine for over 3 months and the yield is very limited. After several rackings the wine is aged for one year in 5HL oak barrels. This is a wine with intense aromas and flavors of blackberries, dried cherries and a hint of spice. It is a dessert wine but I have been told that at Easter in Montefalco they drink it with lamb. $NV


Filed under Antonelli, Arnaldo Caprai winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Perticaia, sagrantino, Sagrantino passito, Scacciadiavoli, Tenuta Bellafonte, Umbria