$20 and Under for Summer Drinking

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite wines for summer drinking.


Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2014 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. It has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $14

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross-featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_8070

Pinot Grigio 2014 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $17IMG_8062

Urban Riesling 2014 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. It is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, with juicy fruit and a minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14IMG_8063

Frascati DOC “Terre Dei Grifi 2013 Made from 50% Malvasia Bianco di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. Hillside vineyards with volcanic, potassium rich soil. The grapes are gently pressed and vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for 4 months to impart greater complexity, structure and bouquet. The wine ages in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has fragrances of exotic fruits and citrus with a touch of ripe pear and almond in the finish. $12

Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 Colli Aprutini IGT Cerulli Spinozzi (Abruzzo) 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation in stainless steel, then malolactic. It is aged on its lees for 5 months before the wine is bottled. Hints of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits and apricot. There is a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I was very impressed by this wine, one of the best I have tasted. $16IMG_8098

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco 2013 DOC Struzziero made from 85% Caprettone 15% and Falanghina or Greco. The vineyards are located on the slopes of Vesuvius. Crushing and destemming followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is bottled in March following the harvest. Aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with good minerality and a touch of smoke. $12


Organic Prosecco DOC grapes for this small production Prosecco are harvested from certified organic wine estate in the town of Vazzola in Treviso. The grapes are grown without chemicals or fertilizers, the grapes are 100% organically grown. It is produced in the extra dry style with just a little more residual sugar than a Brut. It has hints of green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. $16


Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc  This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $14IMG_7661

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence. Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with nice red berry aromas and flavors. Very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18


Cantina Terlano St. Maddalena 2014 Alto Adige DOC made from 80% Schiava and 15% Lagrein. The vineyards are between 230 and 500 meters and the exposure is south/ southwest. Harvest is by hand and there is a grape selection and they are destemmed. This is followed by a slow must fermentation at a controlled temperatures and gentle agitation of the must in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging is in big wooden barrels for 7/10 months. The wines are blended one month before bottling. The wine has hints of black elderberry and cherry with a touch of bitter almond and violet. It has balanced acidity and low tannins which is a unique feature of the Schiava grape. $20IMG_8069

Scherecbichl Colterenzio Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Schiava. (Vernatsch) produced by old traditional pergola trained vines. The hillside vineyards are at 410/440 meters and the soils are morainal mixed with sand and eroded porphyry deposits. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation, then four months of aging in tanks. It had red summer fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry, light tannin and acidity. This is a wine to be drunk young served slightly chilled for summer drinking.IMG_8068

Kaltern Caldaro Kalterersee Auslese 2013 Alto DOC Adige 100% Schiava (Vernatsch). The vineyards are on south and east facing slopes surrounding Lake Kaltern at 230/450 meters. The soil is loamy, limestone gravel, with a small proportion of sand. The average age of the vines is 20/50 years and the training system is the pergola. Harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is for one week on the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged four months on the fine lees in stainless steel and large casks. It has hints of cherry and raspberry with a touch of bitter almond. Wine should be drunk young.IMG_8066

Chianti Classico “Aziano” 2013 DOCG Ruffino Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino and Canaiolo. The soil is moderate clay content rich in Galestro rocks. The vineyards are at 200/400 meters. The vines are guyot trained and cordon spur pruned. Fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once malolatic fermentation is complete the wine is aged for 11 months in stainless steel and concrete vats and four months in bottle before release. It has hints of red berries, cherries, violets, plums and a touch of spice. $14IMG_8064

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 Sartori di Verona made from 45% Corvina, 30% Covinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatioa. The Valpolicella Classico area is north of Verona and the soil is calcareous with fine layers of limestone. There is soft pressing with skin maceration for 8 to 10 days. After pressing 10% of the must is extracted to obtain better color and tannin. After racking and malolactic fermentation the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in oak for 15 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. It has aromas and flavors of rich red fruit with hints of black cherry, nice minerality and soft tannins. $20

I was very impressed with this wine. It was one of the best Valpolicellas I have tasted in a long time.

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Filed under Banfi, Bila- Haut, Bio-Dynamic, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kalterer See, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Struzziero, Petale de Rose, Peter Zemmer, Pfarrhof Kaltern, Prosecco, Ruffino, Sartori di Verona, St. Magdalener- Hausler, Terre dei Grifi Frascati, Urban Riesling-Nik Weis

Baracchi Winery: Red, White and Sparkling

Tony di Dio of Tony di Dio Selections is the representative for a number of quality wine estates. It is always interesting to taste with him the wines from one of these estates. This time it was the Baracchi Estate located near Cortona in Tuscany, we tasted the wines with lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC.IMG_8061

Tony said that near the winery is the Relais Il Falconiere, part of the Relais & Chateaux which is operated  by the Baraccho family.

The Baracchi Estate is located on a hill overlooking the Valdichiana Valley. It covers about 60 hectares of which 22 are planted in vines. They are divided into small plots: San Martino where the winery is located, Gabbiano between Cortona and Montepulciano, and Montanare all of them at about 300 meters with a southern exposure.

Tony said that the agronomist Stefano Chioccioli, who is also the enologist, selected the best land for each variety. San Martino with sandy and well-drained soil for Sryah and Sangiovese. Gabbiano with its clay soil is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Montanare with soil composed of stones and lime for Merlot and Trebbiano. He said that here at the top on the edge of a forest he planted Pinot Noir, which might be their greatest challenge. IMG_7803

Trebbiano Methodo Classico Brut NV 2012  100% Trebbiano  The grapes are harvested early by hand. Fermentation takes place with skin contact for about 10 days at low temperatures. Maceration is for at least 12 months on selected yeasts. It has small bubbles, good acidity with floral hints and notes of apples, crusty bread and almonds. $19. I was very impressed with this wine for the price.IMG_7802

Sangiovese Rosè “Millesimato” 2012 100% Sangiovese. Metodo Classico with manual riddling. The wine is produced by the method of submerged cap maceration for a few hours and the fermentation continues with the cold techniques for a few hours more. This is to enhance the aromas and finesse of the wine.  The wine remains on the lees for 36 months. It has hints of cherry with notes of almonds and yeast. I have tasted Rosé made from Sangiovese but this is the first time I tasted a sparkling one.IMG_7811

Sangiovese Rosso “Smeriglio” 2012  Cortona DOC 100% Sangiovese comes from old vines of more than 20 years and a recently planted vineyard. The harvest begins the first week of October; a selection of the grapes had already been made at the end of July leaving only one kg of grapes per vine. The alcoholic fermentation with consequent skin maceration is done in stainless steel tanks for about 21 days, at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French barriques, half new, for 12 months, which also performs the malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and raspberries, with a touch of vanilla.IMG_7807

O’Lillo! 2010 Tuscana  IGT made from 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 23% Cabernet and 25% Sangiovese. The grapes are harvested and vinified separately. After a soft de-stemming the grapes are fermented in stainless steel thermo-controlled and kept in contact with the skins for 20 to 24 days depending on the variety. The wine is bottled after six months and is aged for another 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, wild berries with a touch of spice and pepper.IMG_7808

Ardito 2010 Toscana IGT made from 50% Cabernet and 50%Syrah. Harvest is by hand in mid-September for the Syrah and on October 10 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are vinified separately and after alcohol fermentation, part of which takes pace in oak barrels, the wine is placed in vertical temperature controlled tanks, continues fermentation for 21/22 days. The wines are blended and malolactic fermentation takes place in medium toasted French barriques: Allier, Nevers and Troncais) aging continues for 20 months. It remains a minimum of 9 months in the bottle before it is released. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of plums, licorice, coffee and chocolate.IMG_7809

Pinot Nero- 2012 Toscana IGT 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard approximately 500 meters. Tony pointed out that this is a Tuscan Pinot Noir and should not be confused with the Pinot of Burgundy or other areas. It has hints of cherry and strawberry and a hint of spice with a very long finish.

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Filed under Baracchi winery, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Celebrating with Champagne on the 4th of July

Champagne gets a lot of attention on special occasions and holidays, especially New Years Eve. For the Fourth of July, an American holiday and the biggest barbecue day of the year, many think of Zinfandel. But I prefer to celebrate with Champagne. Am I being un-American? Keep in mind that if it were not for the Marquis de Lafayette and the French fleet, we would not be celebrating on July 4th. So I believe that we should all raise a glass of Champagne to the French and our Founding Fathers.IMG_7926

When the Comitè Champagne (Champagne Bureau) invited me to a Champagne tasting, it was perfect timing.


John Bandman

John Bandman, someone I have known for a number of years was the speaker.

Mr. Bandman made an interesting selection of Champagnes, all excellent values for the money. While most Champagne is made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with Pinot Meunier as a minor grape, he included several where the Pinot Meunier was prominent and one that was 100% Pinot Meunier. In response to a question Mr. Bandman said that besides Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, to make Champagne other approved varieties are white Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, but they make up less than 0.3% of the plantings.IMG_7930

Besserat de Bellefon, Brut NV It is a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. The winery was established in 1843 in Ay. There are 25 hectares of vineyards, mainly situated in the Marne Valley, which is known for its Pinot Meunier. They also have about 100 grape growers with vineyards situated in the best areas of the Champagne region. It has hints of dried flowers, grapefruit peach, apricot and plum with a touch of hazelnuts in the finish. I find that Champagnes which have more red grapes in them often have more body and can be served with a greater variety of foods. $40IMG_7929

Ayala, Brut Majeur, NV made from 43% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. Bollinger owns this company. They only use up to 20% of their reserve wine in the NV. Complex and elegant with hints of apple, pear, bread crust and a touch of spice. $50IMG_7931

Blanc de Blancs, Franck Bonville NV Grand  Cru made from 100% Grand Cru Estate grown Chardonnay from Oger, Cramant and Avize. There are 20 hectares of vineyards on the estate. This Champagne has floral hints with green apple, ginger and a touch of spice. $35IMG_7932

Brut Rose, Charles de Cazanove (Reims) Made from 50% Pinot Noir, 20 Pinot Meunier, 35% Côteaux Chamenois Rouge and 10% Chardonnay. Vinification mostly takes place in stainless steel, but when necessary some wines spend time in oak. It has nice fruit with hints of cherry and strawberry. $36IMG_7935

Blanc de Noirs, Michel Loriot NV made from 100% Meunier. The dosage is 10g. The have 7 acres of vineyards composed of 20 plots, 80% Meunier, 18% Chardonnay and 2% Pinot Noir. The owner/winemaker Michael Lorite likes to let nature express itself and has grass cover cropping to protect the vines from soil humidity. Rot and diseases are minimized as well as the use of phytosanitas products. Priority is given to organic fertilizers and the use of copper. The grapes are squeezed in a traditional press and the wine is stored in vats by cru and plot. $45IMG_7934

Collet Millesime Brut NV (Ay) 2004 Made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay and aged seven years in the cellar before release. This is a coop with 65 hectares of vines and 607 wine growers. The grapes for this Champagne come from ten specially selected Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with hints of dried apple, lemon, bread and a touch of spice. Mr. Bandman said the 2004 was a very good vintage. $55IMG_7933

Demi-Sec, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Sublime NV (Reims) Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Grand and Petite Montagne de Reims. The maturation period was extended by one year and there was a generous dosage. It is very fruity with hints of pear, cinnamon, candied fruits and a touch of pastry. $45


Filed under Ayala, Besserat, Champagne, Charles de Cazanove, Collet, Franck Bonville, Michel Loriot, Piper-Heidsieck

Tasting Calvados with Jéròme Dupont

After a wonderful lunch at the Auberge de l’Iil, we were invited to take our coffee on the lawn by the river. It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to prolong the experience with a glass of Calvados and a cigar. As I puffed on the cigar and sipped the Calvados I watched a woman feeding the storks that had just landed nearby. It was a magical afternoon.


Jerome Dupont

Calvados was on my mind when I went to meet Jerome Dupont of the Dupont Calvados Distillery. He is the fourth generation in the family business and joined the firm in 2002.

In 1887 the Dupont family settled their cattle and apple orchard farm in Normandy. Today the Dupont Family estate consists of 30 hectares of orchards in Normandy in the heart of the Pays d’Auge region. There are 13 different apple varieties from sweet to sour among the 6,000 trees.IMG_7780

They produce cider, pommeau and calvados. The poor chalk and marl soil create small apples with thick skins to produce just the right aromatic intensity and concentration that they seek. The apples are ripe when they fall from the tree and are hand sorted. Like wine, Jerome said, you have to start with good fruit to get the desired result.

You can also make Calvados from pears and a combination of apples and pears but Dupont only uses apples. Jerome said they use single batch distillation and not continuous distillation, which is used by some of the larger producers.IMG_7778

Cider Bouchè is made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% bitter apples. The harvest takes place between October and November. The cider is made by the traditional method the Pays d’Auge. There is controlled fermentation in stainless steel vats using indigenous yeast. Stabilization of the cider is carried out by successive racking as is the fermentation. The cider is bottled unpasteurized between March and April. Jerome said that the density (OG) is 1060 after pressing, equivalent to 134 grams of sugar per liter and 1024 when bottled which results in 5% alcohol after bottle fermentation has been completed. There was a slight deposit at the bottom of the bottle, which Jerome said was natural because it is not filtered or pasteurized. it has aromas of cooked apples and a touch of cinnamon.IMG_7787

Cidre Tripe is made from a selection of Mettais bitter apples. Jéròme said it was inspired by the techniques used to make long keeping dark beers. This is a triple fermentation using the bitter apples. After the first fermentation of the natural sugars, an addition of extra sugar allows for a second fermentation to take place giving the cider 10% alcohol. The third fermentation takes place in the bottle to give the mousse. It is bottled the year following the harvest. Density of (OG) 1065 after pressing, which equals 145 grams of sugar. It was dry, with hints of chicory and licorice with a bitter and slightly astringent finish and long aftertaste.

We also tasted a Calvados just distilled, which was 140 proof and reminded me of grappa. Jéròme said that in Normandy they used to add Calvados to their coffee in the morning.IMG_7790

Calvados Fine Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% acid apples. The soil is clay and oxfordian marl. The harvest is from September to November. The apples are mixed, crushed and pressed. The apple juice is fermented right out to give the cider to be distilled. The first distillation gives the petite eau at 30% by volume and the second distillation, the petite eau which produces the calvados. It is aged for a minimum of two years in toasted 400 liter (88 imperial gallon) oak barrels of which 50% are new. Jéròme said that it is bottled when ordered. It is golden in color, very complex and intense with aromas of apples, pears and citrus with a touch of vanilla. He said that as an aperitif it can be on its own or over ice or with a drop or two of water to let it release its aromas. As a digestive it should be given time to breathe. 42% alcohol. $45IMG_7791

Calvados Vielle Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge Double distillation is carried out 6 months after fermentation has taken place. It is aged for 4 years in oak barrels 25% of which are new. Bottled when ordered. Golden color, intense but soft with hints of candied fruits, liquorice and a touch of vanilla and oak. 42% alcohol. $55  This was my favorite for just sippingIMG_7788

Calvados Hors D’Age A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge  Same as the two above except it is aged for 6 years in oak barrels. It has fruity aromas of apple and banana, floral hints, a touch of wood. Very complex. 42% alcohol. $80IMG_7786

Calvados 1989 same as above. Copper Color. It was distilled in 1989 and aged in toasted oak vats since then. Jerome said it is unfiltered without being cold stabilized in such a way to maximize its concentration and complexity. Bottled to order. It is Intense and well-balanced but not aggressive with hints of apples, orange and vanilla. 42% alcohol $120IMG_7789

Calvados 1969 A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Very deep mahogany color. Distilled in 1969 and aged in toasted oak barrels. It is intense but not aggressive with hints of wood and spices. Jerome said that its intensity makes it perfect for cigar lovers. 41% alcohol. Not available in the US market.

For more information http://www.calvados-dupont.com

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The New Chianti Classico Classification: Gran Selezione

I had been waiting for an opportunity to taste the 2010 vintage Chianti Classico Gran Selezione  DOCG to see what they were all about so I was pleased to attend a seminar and tasting of the wines.IMG_7875_2

The seminar was billed as a Master Class: “An Exploration of the Territory of Chianti Classico,” and was presented by Antonio Galloni. He selected 7 wines from the Gran Selezione category. This new classification is at the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid. In order to qualify for this classificatio, the grapes for these wines must be estate grown and come from a single vineyard, or selected from the estates best-suited vineyards. Gran Selezione wines can be released on the market after 30 months from the grape harvest, including at least 3 months of bottle aging. The alcohol must be at least 13%.IMG_7879_2

The Chianti Classico zone is between Florence and Siena and includes the communities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti and includes parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnella Val di Pesa.

As of 2005, all Chianti Classico has the Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) on the label. Before 2005 a Chianti Classico producer did not have to belong to the Consortium and therefore did not have to put the Black Rooster on the neck label. This was very confusing for the consumer.IMG_7873_2

Chianti produced outside this Classical zone cannot have the word Classico on the label and cannot have the Black Rooster symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium on the neck label. For more information see my blog


Grand Riserva Wines – Mr. Galloni used the wines of different producers of the Grand Riserva as examples of how the vineyard elevation, soil type and exposure will produce different styles of wine.IMG_7865_2

Badia a Passignano 100% Sangiovese Antinori The production zone is Tavarnella Val di Pesa. Fermentation lasts for 10 days and the must is in contact with the skins for another 10-12 days. After racking, the various lots were aged for 14 months in Hungarian oak barrels and in French oak barrels. The wine remained in the bottle for another 12 months. The wine has aromas of ripe fruit, with hints of cherries and a slight touch of vanilla. It has a nice finish and long aftertaste. $60IMG_7866_2

Isole e Olena 82% Sangiovese, 9% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petite Verdot. The production area is 9 km north of Castellina in Chianti. Fermentation is in conical open vats for 3 weeks for the Sangiovese and Cabernet and 2 weeks for the Syrah. The wine spends 22 months in French barriques (225 liters) of which 30 are new, and 10 months in casks. The wine was bottled in July 2013. It has hints of cherries, blackberries and spice with a touch of balsamic. $ Not yet released.IMG_7867

Castello di Fonterutoli 92% Sangiovese, 8% Malvasia and Colorino. Marchesi Mazzei Production zone is Castellina in Chianti. The grapes are hand harvested starting on October 1. The wine is aged is barriques and 500 liter tonnneaux of which 60% are new. It has nice fruit with hints of cherries and a touch of violets. $70IMG_7868_2

Mona Lisa Vignamaggio 85% Sangiovese,15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Greve in Chianti. There are 16/18 days of fermentation and maceration on the skins. After malolactic fermentation there is 18/20 months of barrique aging and 12/14 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry and plums. $40IMG_7869_2

Vigna del Sorbo Fontodi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Panzano in Chianti. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in inox tanks and maceration lasts for 25 days. The wine is aged in 225 liter French barrels for 2 years. Not all the barrels are new. It has hints of cherries, violets and a touch of spice.  $70IMG_7870

San Lorenzo Castello di Ama 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and Malvasia Nera. Area of Production Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 12 months in French oak and 2 years in bottle. It has red fruit aromas and flavors with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $50IMG_7871

San Marcellino Rocca di Montegrossi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Pugnitello. Production area Monti in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 28 months in 49% barriques and 51% in tonneaux of Allier oak, 20% new wood, 10% two years and 70% 3 years. The wine was bottled on April 19, 2013 and remained in the bottle for at least 24 months before release. $50. They are certified organic. The wine has hints of black cherry and plum with a touch of cedar and leather. $50IMG_7872_2

Colonia Felsina 100% Sangiovese Area of production Castelnouovo Berardenga. Fermentation and maceration are for 16/20 days in steel tanks with punchdowns and popovers at controlled temperatures. In March/April the wine is transferred into new and once-used oak barriques for 18/20 months maturation followed by at least 6/8 months in the bottle. It has hints of cherry and plum with a touch of cinnamon. $85

In answer to a question, Mr. Galloni pointed out that two of the wines we tasted shared the same oenologist, Franco Bernabei. But the wines do not taste the same because the vineyards are located in different zones.

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Filed under Antinori, Castello di Ama, Castello Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Fonti, Isole e Olena, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Rocca di Montegrossi, Vigamaggio

Le Pizze Regionale at Don Antonio by Starita

Le Pizze Regionali

One of my favorite pizzerias in New York is Don Antonio by Starita. (309 West 50th St, NY, NY). I first met the owner/pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio when he opened Keste on Bleecker Street. Michele and I had just returned from Naples where we ate pizza every day, sometimes twice a day. At Kesté, it was like being back in Naples, the pizza was that good and authentic


Roberto, Giorgia and Antonio

At Don Antonio by Starita, Roberto has come up with 20 different toppings to celebrate the regions of Italy. Each topping represents ingredients from that region. Roberto said that he would do ten regions for the spring and summer and the other ten regions for the fall and winter so he could take advantage of the freshest seasonal products. One region would be featured each week and the ones that were the most popular would become part of the regular menu. However there were 11 Pizzas on the list that Roberto gave me.

Roberto invited me to stop by and try them. The day I was there, the pizza was being made by three of the great pizzaioli, Roberto, his daughter Giorgia, a prize winning pizzaiolo in her own right, and Antonio Starita, Roberto’s mentor and owner of Starita a Materdei in Naples which we visited in February.

Here is a description of the 6 pizzas I ate:IMG_7898

I started with Umbria, made with cream black truffle mixed with ricotta cheese, oyster mushrooms, caciotta Umbro cheese, fresh black truffle and prosciutto. I knew there were more pizzas to go but this was so good I ate it all.IMG_7905

Next was Puglia, which was made with fresh basil, stracciatela di bufala, a fresh cheese produced in the province of Foggia , figs, sliced Cerignola olives (olive fritte) topped with grated Tavoliere cheese. I did not finish this one as I had to share it with other guests but it is a great combination of flavors.IMG_7904

Then La Basilicata made with Canestrato di Moliterno, a hard pecorino cheese made from sheep and goat milk in the commune of Moliterno, mozzarella, grilled Sinese bell peppers sautéed with roasted almonds and raisins. It was a good thing more people showed up so I only was able to eat two slices.IMG_7903

La Campania had ricotta di bufala Campana DOP on the dough, topped with marinated heirloom tomatoes and zucchini flowers. It was finished with grated caciocavallo Sllano, a stretched-curd cheese made from sheep or cows milk produced in the province of Avellino.IMG_7901

La Lombardia was made with stracchino, a cows’ milk cheese, baked on the dough. Then a paste of dried figs, gorgonzola, and raisin was wrapped in slices of bresaola marinated in olive oil and lemon and placed on top with 10 year old Bitto, a DOP cows milk cheeseIMG_7906.

Roberto said I had to try ay least one more. He brought me La Sicilia, the most complicated. The topping was made of calamari, clams, octopus, tomato sauce, Pachino tomatoes, saffron, salt, pecorino Piacentino di Enna allo zafferano.

What makes these pizzas so special is that the toppings are not just put on the dough but the preparation may take more than a day. Here is the recipe for La Sicilia as Roberto explained it to me:  Boil the Calamari and sauté the clams with olive oil. Sauté separately the tomatoes and octopus and the saffron with cut shrimp and octopus, then mix it all in a bowl and leave for a day to marinate with salt and some olive oil. On the pizza dough, spread the tomato sauce, add baby scallops, add the seafood and put in the oven for a few seconds to warm up the seafood

Roberto invited me back to taste some of the ones that  I missed. The ones I did not taste are the: Il Molise, La Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Il Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige. I am looking forward to going back again soon.


Filed under Don Antonio by Starita, Le Pizze Regionali, Uncategorized

Bibbiano: Chianti Classico at its Best!

Tommaso Marrocchesi Marsi and his brother Federico are the owners of Bibbiano. I have tasted their wines before and really liked them but recently I had the chance to sit down with Tommaso and discuss the wines over lunch.


Tommaso Marsi

Tommaso is very passionate about the Sanviovese grape, Tuscany and Chianti Classico.

The winery was founded in 1865 and he and his brother are the fifth generation of the family at the winery. The winery is located in Castellina in Chianti overlooking the Elsa Valley. Tommaso said that there is organic farming and C02 zero emissions. He believes that there should be as little interference by the wine-maker as possible.

There are 25 hectares of vineyards and they are between 270 and 300 meters. The vineyards are on two slopes, which have different characteristics. The winery has the same boundaries that it had in 1865.

He also said that the wines go very well with food because of the good acidity and the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape.


The Black Label

They only make 4 wines, the three Chianti Classico listed below and a Vin Santo.

Chianti Classico Bibbiano DOCG 2013 made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino. The production area is Bibbiano and Castellina in Chianti from all the vineyards of the estate (25 hectares) from both the southwest and northeast slopes. The soil is calcareous-clay mixed with (limestone based) alberese rock. Tommaso said that this wine represents the territorial characteristics of the estate since it is produced from Sangiovese grapes grown on both sides of the estate with the addition of a small amount of Colorino. Havesting of the Sangiovese began on September 20th and Colorino a few days later. The vinification takes place in cement vats and fermentation on the skins lasts for 18 days.

There is a further stage of maturation while the wine is still in the cement vats, followed by a 3 months refining period in the bottle. This is a very well balanced wine with fruity hints of cherry and prune and a touch of violets. $22 IMG_7885

Chianti Classico “Montornello” Riserva DOCG 2012 100% Sangiovese. Tommaso said that the grapes are grown in the old vineyards of the northeast side of the estate called Montornello. The soil here is calcareous-clay, loose with basin stone-pills and  stones. Harvesting is in late September to the middle of October. Alcoholic fermentation was followed by maceration on the skins for about three weeks. The wine was aged in French oak barriques for 12 months and about 4 months in bottle before release. Tommaso said that about half of the barriques were new and the other half were of different ages. The wine has hints of red fruit, especially cherry, with a touch of spice and tobacco. $24IMG_7882

Then he opened the 1995 and it was wonderful. It  is an example of a great twenty year old  Chianti Classico that I could not stop drinking. IMG_7884 

Chianti Classico “Vigna del Capannino “ Gran Selezione  2011 (this is a recent classification(2010)-it is a wine made exclusively from a winery’s own grapes grown in its finest vineyards according to strict regulation- it is on the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid) 2011 100% Sangiovese Grosso from the Vigna del Capannino vineyard. Tommaso said that the vineyard is located on the southwest slope of the estate overlooking Monteteriggioni. He feels that this vineyard represents the best expression of what he calls the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. Harvesting is by hand in the middle of October. After the alcoholic fermentation there is long maceration on the skins for 25 days. The wine was aged in barriques, tonneaux and large Sloavonian oak barrels for 24 months. The wine remains in the bottle for about another six months before its release. This is an elegant, balanced wine with hints of cherry, spice, and violet and a touch of sunshine on the Tuscan pines $35.

I was very impressed by this wine and it is one of the best “Gran Selezione” wines that I have had to pleasure to drink. It retails for $35 and this is a great bargain!!IMG_7886

Tommaso then opened the 1999.  At first he said it was not showing well but after about five minutes in the glass it began to open up and it was wonderful.   He said that Giulio Gambelli who was the winemaker for more than 60 vintages made the 1999 and 1995.  In 2000 Stefano Porcinai became the wine maker. This is a great example of how Chianti Classic can age and still retain all of the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape, sunshine on the Tuscan pines- Siamo in Toscana.


Filed under Bibbiano, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Montornello, Gran Selezione-Vigna del Capannino, Tommaso Marsi