SLA Thai-Something Complete Different

A few weeks ago, our friend Ernie took Michele and I to SLA, a Thai restaurant near his home in Montclair, New Jersey. Ernie often speaks about this restaurant as one of his favorites and told us that it was very special because the owner and founder, Meiji Pattamasinghchai was taught to cook by a Thai food expert, her own mother who is a well known restaurateur in northern Thailand. In fact, the King of Thailand visits her restaurant whenever he is in the North of the country.

Today, Meiji’s brother Yanin and husband Paul, who are both trained chefs work together in the kitchen and devise their menu and daily special dishes. They pride themselves on sourcing the finest and freshest ingredients in the market every day.

SLA, which stands for Simple,Love, Authentic first opened in a nearby location about 6 years ago,

We started with some appetizers.

Gai Tod–Thai chicken wings with sweet chili sauce. The wings were irresistible coated in a sweet and spicy sauce.

Kanom jeeb–Thai steamed chicken and shrimp dumplings served with soy sauce


Gui Chai–Asian chive pancakes served with soy vinaigrette

Next, we moved on to some main courses.

One Nam Thok Pla Tod–Crispy fried whole fish (or fillet) with issan dressing, bell pepper, herbs, diced scallion, lemongrass and roasted rice powder

IMG_4810Duck with Green Noodles

Pad See Ew-Flat noodles with chicken, black sweet sauce, and Asian broccoli

Ernie suggested we drink the Falanghina from Donnachiara. He always has a case or two on hand. It was the perfect combination with the food.

Beneventano Falanghina IGT Donnachiara made from 100% Falanghina The vineyard is the Torre Cuso, the best location for Falanghina. The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 16 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 2,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed before pressing. Cold fermentation is in stainless steel and there is extended maceration. This is a crisp white wine with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, nice acidity and good minerality.

Dessert was beautiful, and something I had never tried before.


Home made Purple Sweet Potato Ice Cream, topped with coconut sauce and fruits. Not only was it good to look at, it was also delicious.


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Filed under Donna Chiara Winery, SLA, Uncategorized

The Return of Our Pizza Group to Keste


It has been over one year since our pizza group has gotten together. Ed Mc Carthy sent out emails to see who was interested in going out again. He reminded everyone that our theme would be the same — Champagne and Italian red wine with the pizza. Five of us gathered at Keste Wall Street.

IMG_4773 Roberto Caporuscio, now the sole owner of Keste Wall Street, was expecting us and made a number of special appetizers to welcome us before we had the pizza.  He told us that he had been working on some new dishes during the long months on lockdown.  

IMG_4774We began with Meatballs.  Roberto told us this was his mother’s recipe and they were very good, firm textured and meaty.  


IMG_4778Panzerotto, a large fried pocket of dough filled with mozzarella and tomato.


IMG_4780At first I thought this was an arancini or rice ball, but Roberto told us it was a large burrata cheese, rolled in a batter and deep fried.  When we cut it open, small balls of mozzarella in cream tumbled out.  



A small timbale of lasagna came next.

IMG_4788Roberto’s Roman style pizza was crispy and light.

IMG_4781Champagne J. Lassalle Brut Premier Cru 2008 made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir The average age of the vines is 50 years and the soil is clay and limestone. Grapes are crushed in a traditional wooden press. The must rests for 12 to 24 hours to allow the juice to settle. Alcoholic fermentation lasts for 8 to 10 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place to soften the acidity. The blend of grapes changes every year. Secondary fermentation is in bottle for 6 to 8 weeks. Bottles are riddled in pupîtres and adjusted a quarter turn at a time for 6 weeks. The wine is aged 10 to 11 years on the lees. It is only made in great years, current vintages are 2007 and 2008. Disgorgement: December 2017 and the dosage is 8g/l. This is an elegant silky, concentrated complex wine with subtle citrus fruit and a long finish and very pleasing after taste. It was drinking very nicely.


Pizza Margherita — a classic and my favorite.


IMG_4797The Padrino — Pizza with spicy  soppressata, tomatoes and smoked cheese.

IMG_4799Pizza Montanara — the dough for this pizza is fried first, the toppings are added and then it is baked.  The result is a light and crispy pie.


Krug Rose NV it is a blend of 22 wines from 7 different years, the youngest is from 2012 and the oldest from 2006. Made from 40% Pinot Noir, 32% Meunier and 28% Chardonnay. The wine was completed with 11% traditional macerated Pinot Noir of the year from a special plot in Aÿ to add color and structure. Reserve wines made up 71% of the final blend. It is aged for 7 years. Ed Mc Carthy, the author of “Wine for Dummies” and “Champagne for Dummies” said this is one of his two favorite Rose Champagnes. There is elegant fruit, a note of spice, hints of fig, orange peel and a touch of gingerbread. I have to agree with Ed this is very impressive Rosé Champagne.


IMG_4800La Pastiera, a traditional Springtime dessert from Napoli.  This is a ricotta cheesecake made with wheat berries and orange peel. 


IMG_4801Pistachio Gelato — rich and nutty.

IMG_4802Caprese Chocolate cake and ice cream.

There were problems with the red wine but it did not really matter. We were all very happy to be out at Keste drinking Champagne at eating the Pizza made by Roberto


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Tradition and Innovation at Villa Matilde

Riccardo Gabriele, head of the Italian PR agency PR Comunicare il Vino, represents some of the best wineries in Italy. Stefania Tacconi of his PR agency asked me to participate in a virtual master class with Salvatore Avallone owner of Villa Matilde Avallone winery in Campania.  I first visited this winery about 20 years ago and met Salvatore and his sister Maria-Ida Avallone. They are the children of Francesco Paolo Avallone who founded the estate in the early 1960’s.  I have always enjoyed their wines and I visited again about five years ago with Campania Stories.

Via Zoom, Salvatore explained that his father had a passion for the ancient grapes of Campania and especially the legendary vinum Falernum the wine described by Pliny the Elder (d. August 79 AD) and other ancient Roman writers. He wanted to find a way to make this ancient wine again. After years of research he was able to locate a handful of vines that survived phylloxera in Monte Massico.  He planted them and this became Villa Matilde.

Salvatore said Villa Matilde now has four properties, two within the Falerno del Massico DOC appellation (province of Caserta), and two in the Benevento and Avellino provinces. They have reached their goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions on all properties.

The Wines


Fiano Di Avellino Tenute d’Altavilla DOCG made from 100% Fiano Di Avellino from vineyards at the Tenute d’Altavilla estate in Campania. The vines were planted 1968-1965. Soil composition is tuffaceous and marly clay. There are 2,500-3,000 vines per hectare. Training system is guyot and the vineyard is at 500-600 meters. Harvest is in the middle of October. Grapes are soft pressed and fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with selected yeast. The maceration technique is cryomaceration. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 4 months before it is bottled. This is a well-balanced wine with hints of citrus fruit, apricots, peaches and almonds.


Falerno Del Massico Bianco Vigna Caracci DOP made from a single vineyard of Falanghina, the Falerno clone (Farreno biotype), first planted in 1968. Vineyard location is San Catrese, Sessa Aurunca, in Campania. Volcanic soil with good levels of potassium and phosphorus. There are 4,500-4,800 plants per hectare guyot trained. The vines are 26-52 years old and at 150 meters. Harvest takes place in late September. Maceration technique is Cryomaceration. Fermentation is for 20 days in stainless steel with selected yeasts. 70% of the wine is aged in stainless steel and 30% in clay amphora for about 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 8 months before release. The wine has hints of pineapple, banana, pear, with a touch of vanilla and a note of almonds. 

IMG_4733Falerno Del Massico Rosso DOP 2016 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso from vineyards on the slopes of the Roccamonfina volcano in the province of Caserta, Campania. There is volcanic soil with excellent levels of phosphorus, potassium and microelements. The vineyard is at 140 meters and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 to 7,000 plants per hectare with various exposures. The wines are 15 to 52 years old. The Aglianico is harvested in late October and the Piedirosso in the middle of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel with selected yeasts for 20 to 25 days. After de-stemming and pressing, the must remains on the skins for 20 to 25 days. The wine is aged for 12 months, one half in Allier oak barriques (one third new) and one half in large Slavonian oak casks. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a fruity and complex wine with hints of cherry, raspberries, plums, spice and a touch of violets.

IMG_4735Taurasi Tenute d’Altavilla DOCG 2016 made from 100% Aglianico. Tenuta d’Altavilla is 25 hectares in the province of Avellino in the DOCG zones of Irpinia. There is tuffaceous soil with a high percentage of clay on steep slopes. The training system is guyot and the elevation is 500 to 600 meters. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the vines were planted in various years from 1968 to 1985. Harvest is in late October. Fermentation is in stainless steel for 20 days with select yeast. Pumpovers and delestage take place. Maceration is for 20 days. The wines are aged in barriques and tonneaux (500L) for 18 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a complex, well balanced wine with hints of blackberries, licorice, leather, a touch of cedar and a note of violets.

Francesco Paolo’s work is still carried on at Villa Matilde.  Today, 20 original clones of Falanghina, Aglianico and Piedrosso are trademarked as Villa Matilde.

Savatore said there are a series of indigenous rootstocks for which they are carrying out a study with WRT (Wine Research Team) of which they are a founding member, and the University of Milan. This type of rootstock is being studied and developed, as they are drought-resistant, a problem made increasingly topical in the light of global warming. In order to anticipate and prevent possible hydration problems of the vine and the grapes, the rootstocks are grafted with Villa Matilde’s varieties and biotypes of Falanghina and Aglianico to then evaluate the best response to their type of soil and climate.

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Celebrating Easter

We invited two friends over for Easter lunch. All of us had received both vaccines weeks ago, so we felt we were within the guidelines.

IMG_4726Meursault-Perrieres 2010 Premier Cru Jean Latour Labille &Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from a .175-hectare parcel planted in 1964. Fermentation and aging are in barrels, 50% new for 12 months then 4 months of additional aging in tank. This is a complex wine with hints of citrus fruit, melon, pear, a touch of honey and a note of brioche. I visited the winery in 2019 and  really enjoyed all their wines.

IMG_4714We had a few little Appetizers to go with the wine.  Some Castelvetrano olives, a mushroom pate from Michele’s book, 1,000 Italian Recipes, and a salame.

IMG_4007Irpinia Aglianico 2016 “Memini” Az. Ag. Guastaferro made from 100% Aglianico. This wine bursts with sweet ripe fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate. It has a wonderful fruit filled finish and a very long aftertaste. It was a very interesting Aglianico and I have never tasted one like this before. Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine) in his book The Essential Guide to Italian Wine 2020 states:  “In 2002 Raffaele Guastaferro inherited 10 hectares from his grandfather with over 100 year old vines trained using the old starseto (pergola Avellinese) method…creating a very interesting style for the wines that were also based on tradition.”

IMG_4722Pasta Amatrciana, my favorite with bucatini.

IMG_4476On the plate, messy but so good.

IMG_4728Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 1985 Emidio Pepe100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendone method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. One hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass-lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. This is a very impressive wine with deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather.

mbFried lamb chops, also from Michele’s book.  The chops are coated with eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and plain dry breadcrumbs.  Here she used panko, which fries up nice and crunchy.  Sorry for the photo, but we all grabbed some chops and started to eat before I could get a better shot!

IMG-1850DessertDante’s Cheesecake is Michele’s version of a ricotta cheesecake that we used to enjoy at a favorite Greenwich Village Cafe.


Filed under Aglianico, Emidio Pepe, Guastaffero, Meursault, Meursault-Perriers, Latour-Labille, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo

Welcoming Spring

Spring has arrived in New York so we decided to have a few friends over for dinner to celebrate.


IMG_4664Champagne Andre Clouet “Cuvèe “1911” Grand Cru Brut NV made from100% Pinot Noir – 50% from 2002, 25% from 1995 and 25% from 1997. The estate vineyards surround the village of Bouzy where the soil is chalk and clay. The farming method is conventional. Fermentation is in stainless steel and natural barrels. Malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged for 6 years on the lees. This is a complex Champagne with citrus aromas and flavors, a touch of peach and a note of brioche.


With the Champagne, we had smoked trout mousse on toasts.  



Barbera d’Asti 2007 Tenuta Cisa Asinari Del Marchese Di Gresy made from 100% Barbera. The vineyard is located in Cassine at 230 to 240 meters and the soil is clay. The farm is practicing organic and the vines are 17 years old. The training system is guyot. Alcoholic fermentation takes place followed by malolactic fermentation. The skins macerate for 8 to 10 days with regular pumping over. Farina fissile and micro filtration takes place during bottling. The wine is aged in second and third passage barriques and in Slavonian oak casks for 5 to 6 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, blackberries, a touch of licorice and a note of spice with good acidity.


IMG_4633Homemade Ricotta and Basil Gnocchi in tomato sauce from Michele’s book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.


IMG_4669Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2004 “Beradenga”Felsina made from 100% Sangiovese located in Castelnuovo Berardenga with mostly southern exposure between 320 and 420 meters (the soil here is rock quartz and calcareous alberese mixed with alluvial pebbles. The vineyards are on different slopes. There are about 5,400 vines per hectare. The training system is bilateral cordon and simple guyot with a maximum of 5 to 8 buds per vine. Harvest is staged due to different altitudes of the vineyards, the first three weeks of October. The clusters are de-stemmed and pressed and the must is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Programmed punch downs and daily pumpovers take place. In March/April the wine goes into medium sized Slavonian oak barrels and French barriques of second and third passage. After 12/16 months of aging the final blend is assembled. The wine remains is glass for 2 to 6 months. The wine has notes of red and black berries with a touch of spice and mineral tones. It was drinking very nicely.


IMG_4635Potato Gatto’, a recipe from Michele’s book, 1,000 Italian Recipes

It had been some time since Michele had made this and we all couldn’t stop eating it.  It’s a classic Neapolitan recipe from her family and it’s made with potatoes mashed with Parmigiano Reggiano, mozzarella, and salami.  

IMG_4637Leg of Lamb  roasted with garlic, rosemary and anchovy was our main course.  


IMG_4639In the dish


IMG_4670Barolo Riserva 1967 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural wine making methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo with hints of red fruit, tar, tobacco, violets, cedar and a touch of balsam.


IMG_4641A few Italian cheeses to finish the wine.  

IMG_4643For dessert, a friend brought a very good version of Pastiera, aka Pizza Gran, a Neapolitan style cheesecake cooked with grain and flavored with orange and cinnamon from his local pastry shop.

IMG_4645On the plate


Filed under Barbara, Barbera d'Asti, Barolo, Borgogno, Chianti Classico Gran Selectione, Di Gresy, Barnera d'Asti, Felsina. Berardenga

Norma — Return to Sicily in New York

All we can do right now is dream about going to Italy, however, we can still go to restaurants in NYC where the food makes you feel as if you are there.IMG_4705 2

One of these restaurants is Norma Gastronomia Siciliana for real Sicilian food. It was a nice day so we sat in the backyard garden. With the overhead heater on  to chase away any lingering chill, it was very comfortable.IMG_4685

Panelle – Fried chickpea fritters with aglio olio sauce

IMG_4684Caponata – Sweet and sour eggplant, celery, green olives, capers, onions and tomatoes served with crostini

IMG_4683Foccacia — The warm focaccia is irresistible with Caponata.

IMG_4686Timballo di melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant parmigiana timbale with mozzarella ane Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, basil and tomato sauce

IMG_4687Arancine “Ragu” — Fried saffron rice balls stuffed with Bolognese meat sauce, green peas served over tomato sauce.

IMG_4693Pasta alla Norma- Paccheri from Gragnano with fresh tomato and garlic sauce, basil, eggplant, pecorino and ricotta salata cheese.

IMG_4691Pasta con Sarde in Timballo – Spaghetti alla chitarra “Setaro”, fresh Portuguese sardines, wild fennel, pine nuts, and saffron baked in mold.  There is an unbaked version of pasta con sarde on the menu as well.  Both are excellent.

IMG_4689 2Porchetta Sandwich — Roasted porchetta, arugula, provolone cheese, spicy mayo

IMG_4690Pizza alla Norma — Pizza topped with eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta salata

IMG_4688Barbera d’ Asti “Vigna Noce” 1999 Antica Azienda Agricola Trinchero.  Made from 100% Barbera.  The winery belongs to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir and as little interference as possible by the wine maker. Only natural yeast is used, there is no acidification of the wine, clarification and filtration does not take place. Chemical treatments are not used in the vineyards; copper and sulfur are used but only when it is really necessary. The wine is aged for 7 years in large chestnut barrels. This is a traditional, classic Barbera that will last for at least another 10 years. I was very impressed with this wine.

We shared two desserts.

IMG_4694Pistachio Tartufo  — Pistachio gelato filled with caramel and rolled in Sicilian pistachios.


Cannoli — These miniature cannoli are filled to order so the crust remains crisp.  The filling is ricotta and chocolate chips and the ends are sprinkled with more Sicilian pistachios.


Filed under Barbara, Barbera, Barbera d'Asti, Trinchero

A Taste of Italy with Doctor Wine, Part II

This is Part II of the Zoom tasting A Taste of Italy with Doctor Wine that  took place last week hosted by  Daniele Cernilli (aka)Doctor Wine  There were 9 wines and in the first blog I wrote about 4 wines.  Here are the other 5 wines.IMG_4619

The samples were in very small 5 cl bottles with twist off caps. Each bottle had a label and a number so there would be no confusion. The whole program was well organized and very informative.

The Wines

Doc APE 2018 Cantine Romagnoli (EMILIA ROMAGNA) made from 55% Barbera, 45% Croatina (Bonarda). The soil is calcareous, medium texture tending to sandy. There are 3,600 plants/hectare and the pruning system is simple guyot. The exposure is south. The grapes macerate for 9 days with a daily pumping over. Fermentation with selected yeasts. The wine ages in first and second passage barriques for 12 months. Then there is the assemblage, a light clarification and a final filtration. The wine has hints of ripe fruit, licorice, leather and a note of wood and tobacco.

A.A. Pinot Nero Riserva “ Zeno” 2018 Cantina Merano made from 100% Pinot Nero (Trentino-Alto Adige, South Tyrol). The vineyards are at 500-700 meters and the vines are 15 to 20 years old. The soil is morainic, light, permeable, decomposed slate, granite and gneiss, barren and sandy. There is a cold fermentation for 5 days, then controlled fermentation with stirring for about 12 days. Aging is in new and used tonneaux. This is an elegant wine with hints of wild berries like strawberries and cherries and a long finish. Daniele liked the wine and included it in the current edition of his The Essential Guide to Italian Wine.


Barberasso 2018 Castello Cigognola (LombardyOltrepo Pavese-Pavia, across the Po) made from 100% Barbera. This is a new wine made from experimenting in the vineyard with cuttings of the branch of the vine. This is an ancient technique, which allows for a light drying of the grapes while keeping the bunch on the plant and in the sunlight. The grapes increase their concentration and continue to develop substances in the peel, which intensify the aromas. They combine the raisin grape and the natural acidity of Barbera with partial whole bunch fermentation to create a new wine. This results in a wine where fruit and acidity are counterbalanced by a soft light note of ripe fruit. Half of the wine is aged for 10 months in 600-liter tonneaux. Because of the raisin fruit, the wine has about 7.5% grams of natural sugar making it softer. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, strawberries, raspberries and a touch of raisins. This is the first time I have tasted a wine made in this way.

Lazio IGP 2017 Montiano Cotarella (Lazio) made from 100% estate grown Merlot from Montefiascone and Castiglione in Teverina. The vineyard is 86.4 acres at 300 meters. The soil is volcanic and rich in fine gravel (Scheletro). There are 1,700 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. The average age of the vines is 16 years. Only the best clusters are harvested by hand during the first week of September. A second selection takes place at the winery. Maceration on the skins takes place for 10 days with numerous punch-downs. Temperature controlled fermentation is in truncoconic stainless steel tanks and malolactic takes place in barrel. The wine ages for 12 months in new French oak. It has hints of red and black berries, spice and vanilla with a touch of cedar. Daniele was impressed with this wine.


Daniele Cernilli -Doctor Wine

Primitivo IGP Puglia 2018 “Ipnotico” Terre Dei Vaaz (Puglia) made from 100% monovarietal Primitivo. Production area is the Murgia plateaux. The soil is medium textured and the elevation is 340 to 380 meters. There are 2800 plants per hectare, the planting system is sapling vineyards and the average age of the wines is 60 years. Fermentation takes place in steel tanks. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel, 4 months in French barriques and a minimum of 8 months in bottle. The wine has hints of sour cherries, prunes, a touch of pomegranate and a note of chocolate with a long finish.

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Filed under A Taste of Italy, Daniele Cernilli, Dr. Wine

A Taste of Italy with Doctor Wine

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, hosted “A Taste of Italy” session on Zoom.

IMG_4616 2Nine wines from different regions of Italy arrived so that participants could taste and discuss. The samples were sent in very small bottles with twist off caps.

IMG_4619I guess this method was chosen since it was easier and less expensive to ship. The name of the wine and a number was on each bottle so there would not be any confusion.

There will be two blogs focussed on these 9 wines. The first blog will concern the 4 wines from wineries I have visited or have hosted tastings for. The next 5 will follow in another blog.

The Wines

Caprettone “Ayete” 2019 Vesuvio Caprettone DOC Casa Setaro (Campania) made from 100% Caprettone. The production zone is at 250/300 meters in the Trione della Guardio in Vesuvius National Park.

Massimo Setaro, owner of the winery, was one of the speakers. I met Massimo in Rome where I tasted his wines and also visited the winery. He spoke about the soil and said it is volcanic and sandy with a layer of lava on the surface and volcanic stone. Because of this there is a mineral character present in the wines. This composition of the soil makes the vines immune to phylloxera so the vines are not grafted onto American rootstock. If phylloxera  attacked a plant it would destroy it but would die in the soil before it reached another plant. The training system is guyot. Vinification: Maceration in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and fermentation lasts for about 20 days in amphora and tonneaux. The wine remains in steel tanks for about 6 months and then in bottle for two months before release. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, herbs, and cedar with balsamic notes, nice minerality, soft acidity and a long finish.

Le Sabble dell’Etna Rosè DOC 2019 Firriato (Sicilia) made from Nerello Mascalese from territory of Castiglione (Catania, Sicily). Cavanera Etnea Estates. Grapes are from different vineyards on the North side of Mt. Etna. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage. Exposure is northeast and the vineyard is at 720 meters. The training system is Cordon Royat. There are 4,000 to 4,500 plants per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested the first week of October. Fermentation is for 15 days. Soft pressing for about 2 hours, slight skin maceration and static sedimentation. The wine spends 3 months on the fine lees in stainless steel tanks with daily shaking. After 3 months in bottle the wine is released. This is a fruity wine with hints of strawberry, raspberry, and a hint of citrus fruit. I visited the winery a number of years ago and more recently hosted a lunch and tasting of the wine at Norma Restaurant in NYC.


Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione “Don Tommaso” 2016 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot Principe Corsini, Villa Le Corte (Toscana). The winery is located in San Casciano Val di Pesa. The vineyards are at 270-350 meters and have a southern exposure. The Pilocenic hills are rich in river stones. There are 5,800 plants per hectare. The training system is low-spurred cordon and the average age of vines is 25 years. This is a selection of the best grapes. They are hand harvested, destemmed and put in pen frustum, cone–shaped stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. After 24 hours at 20°C the grapes are inoculated with selected indigenous yeasts. Fermentation for the Sangiovese is 18 days and for the Merlot is 16 days at a max temp of 28°C. The wine is aged in 70% in new barriques and 30% in used barriques for 18 months and 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blueberries, cherries and lavender with a touch pepper and a note of wild fennel. Daniele said 2016 was the best vintage in Chianti in over 10 years. I did not visit this winery but hosted a dinner for them a few years ago in New York City and really liked their Chianti Classico.


Montepulciano d’’Abruzzo “Toni” 2017 Cataldi Madonna (Abruzzo) Made from 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo from the Cona vineyard near Ofena. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Elevation is 1,250 feet with a Northwest exposure. Vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is spalliera. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel and the juice remains in contact with the skins for 20 to 25 days with regular delestage and pumping over. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and in bottle for 18 months before release. This is wine with body and hints of dark fruit, black cherries, prune and a touch of smoke. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Daniele really liked this wine and said it was real Italian wine.

I visited the winery twice the last time in 2019 and always enjoyed their wines. Giulia Cataldi Madonna now runs the winery. She is the fourth generation of here family. She was present on Zoom.


Filed under CasaSetaro winery, Cataldi Mandanna winery, Daniele Cernilli, Dom Tommaso Chianti Classico, Firriato

Dreaming Of Napoli

Over the last few years every time we were in Naples Michele wanted to have lunch at Mimi alla Ferrovia, a well known restaurant. On our last day in Naples in February of 2020, we finally got there.

The waiter recited the specials and I heard pasta with ricci di mare (sea urchins), I knew what I wanted.  It was excellent.

Recently we visited the friend that was with us on that trip and he suggested that we make pasta with ricci di mare.  We decided to make a lunch that was a tribute to Procida, the tiny island off Naples that Michele’s family comes from, which recently named Italy’s Capitol of Culture for the next year.

IMG_4578We started with crostini covered with homemade roasted red peppers and anchovies.

IMG_4576Champagne Empreintes 2012 Extra Brut Laherte Frere made from 50% Chardonnay from vines in Les Chemins d’Epernay which were planted in 1957 and 50% Pinot Noir from vines in Les Rouges  Maisons planted in 1983. Multiple parcels with varied exposure. Les Chemins d’Epernay has clay soil with a silt stratum in surface and a chalky subsoil. Rouges Maisons has a deep clay topsoil with flint, schist and a chalk subsoil. The vineyards are farmed organically, sometime by horse. Hand harvesting takes place when grapes are fully ripe. Traditional pressing. Natural alcoholic fermentation in barrels from Burgundy aged for a minimum of 10 years. There is no malolactic fermentation. Six months of barrel aging with regular stirring of the lees. Disgorged by hand 01/2018 with a 3 gr/l dosage. It has hints of yellow plums, citrus fruit, peaches, good minerality, a touch of pepper and a note of spice.

IMG_4581Here are the sea urchins, which we were able to purchase removed from their shells.

IMG_4585Spaghetti with sea urchin, garlic, tomatoes and parsley Procida-style. Ready to be served

IMG_4591The spaghetti on the plate, topped with more sea urchin.

IMG_4605Beneventano Falanghina 2018 Donnachiara made from 100% Falanghina. The vineyard is the Torre Cuso, the best location for Falanghina. The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 16 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 2,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed before pressing. Cold fermentation is in stainless steel and there is extended maceration. This is a crisp white wine with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, nice acidity and good minerality. It is one of my favorite white wines and my friend, who enjoys it too, always has some chilled and ready to drink. It was a perfect combination with the ricci di mare.

IMG_4562Broccoli rape on the stove

IMG_4598For our main course, we had Rabbit alla Cacciatore, Procida-style.  The tomato sauce was flavored with rosemary and garlic.

IMG_4600We ate the broccoli rabe with the rabbit.

IMG_4573Bramaterra Riserva 1996 Tenuta Monolo. Bramaterra is in the Alto Piemonte well north of Barolo. Made from 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 20% Vesoplin10% and 10% Uva Rara. The vines were planted in 1970. There are 0.75 hectares of vineyards and the farming was organic. Exposure is northeast/southeast; there are 3,200 vines/hectare at 290 meters. The training system is guyot. The soil is deep and light, copper sands, with a high level of acidity with potassium, iron and manganese. Harvest is manual. Fermentation was in large wooden barrels (botti) with native yeast The wine is aged in botti for two years. The wine is classic Bramaterra. The wine has hints of cherry, spice, cinnamon, a touch of dried fruit and a note of nutmeg. The last vintage was in 2004. The wines can still be found on line going back to 1982

IMG_4601For dessert, we ventured to Sicily for some Cannoli from a nearby bakery.

IMG_4604Dessert wine Zibibbo Sicilia IGT Vino Liquoroso made from the Zibibbo grape Carlo Pellegrino. This bottle was given to my friend a number of years ago. I believe they still make the wine but the label is different and I am not sure it is now vinified in the same way.  The  wine was golden in color with subtle hints of citrus fruits, orange blossoms, peaches, a touch of honey and brioche. It was a pleasure to drink and a great way to end a wonderful lunch.

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Dinner in the Garden at I Trulli

Now that we have had our second vaccinations, Michele and I are starting to go to restaurants again.  This week, we went to I Trulli, which is a short walk from where we live. It has one of the best gardens in the city and with the heaters on, we decided to sit outside where we were very comfortable.

IMG_4526Nonna Dora’s homemade focaccia and creamy ricotta arrived at the table.

IMG_4542We drank Chianti Classico Vigna Vecchia Gran Selezione 2016 DOCG Montefili made from 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard called Vigna Vecchia planted in 1981. The training system is spurred cordon and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. The wine is rotated between 30HL and 10HL oak barrels for 26 months and 8 months in bottle before release.  This is an elegant wine with red and black fruit aromas and hints of blueberries and cherries and a hint of violets. I visited the winery in 2019 and was very impressed by the wines. They also have half bottles.

IMG_4528We also had homemade panzerotti, like miniature calzones, one was stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes and the other with scallions and anchovies.

IMG_4527I had a soup of lentils and sausages, which was excellent.

IMG_4531Michele had the fritto misto with artichokes, calamari and shrimp that she really likes.

IMG_4535I had the malloreddus, a Sardinian pasta served with sausage ragu.

Dora Marzovilla, known as Nonna Dora, makes all of the pasta and is the mother of the owner, Nicola.

IMG_4538Michele had the cavatelli with broccoli rabe and chopped toasted almonds.

IMG_4540A drizzle of the new season extra virgin olive oil completed the dish.

IMG_4546A delicious lemon tart with raspberry sorbet was the finishing touch.

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