With Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara Winery at Il Gattopardo NYC

I have known Illaria Petitto, Managing Director of the Donnachiara Winery for some time and have tasted the wines in NYC many times. I also have visited the winery in Campania a few times. It is always a treat to taste these wines and when the host restaurant is Il Gattppardo the combination could not be better. This is a event I could not miss.

Ilarai Petitto

Ilaria spoke about the winery. She said the winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino. The modern winery was completed in 2005 but the vineyards have been in the family for over 150 years. The consulting oenologist at this time is the legendary Riccardo Cotarella. It is the philosophy of the winery to preserve the traditional grape varieties of the  local territory and to keep the typical character of the wines from  being  lost to the standardization of the wines on the market today. They also follow “Misura CE n.1257/99 – “Produzione , integrata della Regione Campania” limiting the use of some active ingredients that are harmful to the environment.

The White Wines

 Benevento Falanghina IGT “Resilienza” 2016 100% Falanghina. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest is the first half of October. Only the best grapes are selected, harvest is manual and takes place during the coolest hours of the day. There are 2,500 vines per hectare and the grapes were picked at the height of maturity. Illara said cryomaceration is at 42-46 degrees F in order to preserve the aromas, prevent oxidation and enhance the typical characteristics of the varieties. Soft pressing fermentation is at 57-60 °F in stainless steel tanks for about 15 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in the bottle for many months before release. This a a wonderful food wine with good fruit, citrus aromas and flavors, and notes of pear and apricot. It has good acidity and a lasting finish.

Ed Mc Carthy co- author of the Wine for Dummies books said that it was the best Falanghina he had ever tasted.

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2017 100% Fiano. The soil is chalky clay and there are 4,400 plants per hectare.  The vines are guyot trained and the harvest is the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes that are quickly cooled to 50F for 4 to 6 hours. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a delicate and elegant wine with hints of almonds, floral notes and citrus fruit. It is a real pleasure to drink.

This grape was brought to Campania by ancient Greeks. The Romans called it vitis apiana – the Latin root for bees is apiana. Even today bees are attracted to the Fiano grape and Ilaria said you can see the honey bees in the vineyards in Montefalcione.

Greco di Tufo DOCG 2017 100% Greco The soil is tufaceous, training system is guyot, there are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the second half of October. A soft pressing of selected grapes takes place and after that a cold decanting of the must. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is an elegant wine with good structure with hints of pear, apricot, citrus and a touch of pineapple. Like the Fiano, this is a wine that can age for 15 years or more. It is one of my favorites. Both the Fiano and the Greco are wines that can age.

With the white wine we had: Cavatelli di grano saraceno ai frutti di mare.

The Red Wines

Campania Aglianico IGT 2016 made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place in the first half of November. Malolatic fermentation takes place in barriques for 3 months. Ilaria said this is a fresh and pleasant wine due to a small number of “follature” and to a short period of maceration on the skins it is possible to produce a wine that is elegant, warm and perfect with many different foods. The wine is fruity with hints of blackberries, strawberries and a touch of toast.

Irpinia Agianico DOC 2015 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first two weeks in November. Fermentation takes place at 68 to 71 F in stainless steel tanks for 15 days. Maturation is on the skins for 10 days. Malolactic fermentation is in barriques. The wine is full and complex with hints of prune, berries and spice. This was one of the Top 100 Wines this year in the Wine Spectator. 

Taurasi DOCG 2013 100% Aglianico Manual harvest. This wine was vinified like the one above. It is a well structured wine with hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and coffee notes.

Taurasi Riserva 2012 DOCG made from 100% Aglianico The soil is clay, training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first half of November. This one is produced only in the best vintages. There is manual grape picking, a careful cluster selection followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Maturation is on the skins for 20 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques. This is a full intense wine with hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and coffee notes. It is on its way to becoming a great wine with a little more bottle age.

In 2012 Cotarella was not the consulting oenologist.

With the red wine we had: Carrè d’agnello alle erbe aromatiche served with broccoli rabe and a potato croquette.


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Filed under Aglianico, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Taurasi, Uncategorized

Drinking and Eating with Daniele Cernilli (Doctor Wine)

Michele and I spent a few days in Rome before going on a grappa press tour with “Hello Grappa” along with our friend, wine writer and grappa lover, Tom Maresca.

I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in Rome — Checchino dal 1887 — and Tom agreed. We invited Daniele Cernilli (Checchino is his favorite restaurant) and his wife Marina Thompson.

Daniele Cernilli

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, and Marina have been friends for many years. We have tasted a lot of wine together both here and in Rome. Daniele is true Roman, a Romano de Roma as the expression goes. He is one of the most important men in Italian wine and has been a wine critic for many years. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and for 24 years was the editor of Gambero Rosso-Slow Food Wine Guide. Daniele was the inventor of the now famous “Three Glasses” classification for Italian wines. Currently, he has is own web-magazine called “Doctor Wine” www.doctorwine.it. There are two versions, one English and the other Italian, and it covers both Italian and European wines. I read it regularly.

Checchino is a family run restaurant with Francesco Mariani on the floor and his brother Elio in the kitchen.  When we arrived at the restaurant, Francesco welcomed us as always.

Checchino has one of the best wine lists in Rome and Francesco is always ready to talk about his wines.  After we selected the wines Daniele presented Tom and I with copies of his Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019.


Le Vignole–Bianco del Lazio 2012 IGT Colle Picchioni made from Malvasia, Sauvignon and Trebbiano. Maceration is on the skins and the wine is aged in French barriques. The winery is located in Marino a short distance from Rome.  The wine remains  on the lees for some time and has  a slightly golden color. Tom said it reminded him of a Rhone white wine and I agreed.

Stilema 2015 Mastroberadino made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. 10% of the wine is fermented in barriques. This is Daniele’s description of the wine in his book: “Typical notes of flint, then fresh almonds, wild herbs, elegant and extremely clear aromas. Agile and savory taste dominated by a magical freshness that gives elegance and drinkability to the wine. Smooth and long persistence. Great Wine.”

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1982Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wine wAS aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1982 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as the 1983 I had the last time we were here.

Barolo 2010 DOCG Pio Cesare made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes are from family owned vineyards in Serralunga, Grinzane Cavour, La Mora and Barolo. Vinification is in stainless steel and skin contact and maceration is between 25 to 30 days. The wine spends 3 years in large oak barrels. Daniele said I would like the wine because it was very traditional in style and he was right.

After lunch, Daniele invited Tom and I to meet him at his favorite wine bar Il Goccetto that night to taste some wine.  Here is what we drank:

Franciacorta Brut NV Mosnel Metodo Classico made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Noir.  From the following vintages:  70% 2012, 20% 2011 and 10% 2010.   30% was fermented in wood and the wine was on the lees for 40 months. Dosage, Brut 3.5 g/l and disgorged in Jul 2016. The wine had nice fruit with hints of white flower and peach.

Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige DOC Terlan made from 100% Pinot Bianco from vineyards at 500 to 900 meters, with a south, southwest exposure. The soil is sandy porphyric gravel. The grapes are hand harvested and a gentle pressing of the whole cluster and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation takes place. Slow fermentation at a controlled temperature is in big oak barrels of 30HL. Malolactic fermentation follows and the wine ages on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The wine has hints of wild flowers, pear and honey with a touch of almonds and hazelnuts.

It is always interesting to taste and drink wine with Daniele because he comes up with wines and producers which I have not had before. The 3 whites and the Brut were all new for me.


Filed under Barolo, Checchino dal 1887, Colle Picchioni, Daniele Cernilli, Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine, Franciacorta Brut, Mastroberardino, Mosnel Franciacorta, Pinot Bianco, Pio Cesare, Tetlan Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva, Uncategorized

Corte Dei Papi & Argillae: Father and Daughter Wineries

On the Hello, Grappa press tour in May, Michele and I visited the Bonollo Distillery in Torrita di Sienai inTuscany. Bonollo is a very large operation and the Bonollo family own distilleries in other parts of Italy.  In Italy it is against the law to produce distilled spirits and wine on the same property. So Bonollo not only makes grappa under its own label but also for some of the best producers in Tuscany such as Castello Banfi.

At the distillery we were greeted by Maria Carla Bonollo and her daughter Giulia di Cosimo.


After a tour of the distillery we had lunch with Giulia Di Cosimo, and her mother At lunch Giulia offered us wines from Argillae Winery, also owned by her family.

Giulia told us about the Argillae estate.  Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, founder of the biggest Italian Distillery, Bonollo, Spa. Today his granddaughter Giulia manages the Argillae estate.

I liked the wines and Michele and I visited the Argillae wine, which is in Umbria in May.

Giulia said she would be in NYC in September because her importer Vias was doing a tasting event. She said that the wines of Corte Dei Papi owned by the Di Cosimo family and managed by her father Antonio would be there. We told her we would see her in NYC for the tasting.

At the Vias event we met Giulia and she introduced us to her father


Antonio spoke about the Corte Dei Papi (Court of the Popes) Winery.

The Winery is located between the towns of Paliano and Angani, in the heart of the

Cesanese del Piglio DOCG zone. in Lazio. The state covers almost 190 hectares with 25 hectares planted with vines: Cesanese d’ Affile(localCesanese), Passerina, Malvasia Puntinata, Mavlvasia di Candia , Trebbiano and Sauvignon Blanc.

All of the grapes are harvested by hand and vinified immediately.

He said they were inspired by the symbolism and the accuracy of the floor of the Cathedral of Anagani constructed by the Cosmati a Roman family of artists who became famous for the beauty of the mosaics in the 12th century.

The Wines of Corte Dei Papi

Passerina Del Frusinate IGP 20017 made from 85% Passerina. and 15% Viognier. The vines were planted in 2008. There are 3,500 vines per hectare, at 300 meters and the training system is spurred cordon. The soil is red clay from mountain erosion and volcanic layers. Soft pressing takes place at controlled temperatures. Fermentation lasts from 18to 25 days at 17degreesC with constant remourage. The wine is then stored in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 1Degree C. for 6 months and I month in bottle before release. This is a fresh dry white wine with fruity aromas and flavors and hints of citrus, apple and good acidity..

Colle Tricchio DOCG 2016 made from Cesanese Affile and Cesanese Comune with vineyards located in the municipality of Anagni at 300 meters. The vines were planted in 2005, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature., maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. The wine remains in stainless steel for 3months and in bottle for 1 month before release. This is an easy drinking red wine with hints of red fruit and a touch of cherry, plum and violet. The name comes from the Italian word for sparrow; legend has it that a sparrow would only eat the grapes from the Passerina vines.

San Magno DOCG 2015 made from 100% Cesanese del Piglio from selected vineyards in the municipality of Anagni. The wine is vinified at 25 to 26 degrees C and there is frequent pumping over to obtain optimal extraction of color and aromas. With the wine still in contact with the skins, a post fermentation hot maceration is carried out. After malolactic fermentation the wine ages for 16 to 18 months in barriques before being bottled. This is a well structured wine with nice red fruit aromas, hints o f cherry, spice and floral notes. It is a wine that will age.

We told Giulia we would be in Rome in February and she invited us to come to Anagni, visited the Cathedral and the winery.

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Filed under Argillae Winery, Corte Dei Papi Winery, Uncategorized

Dinner at Home with Friends

Michele and I have decided to have more dinners at home and invite friends to join us. This weekend, we invited old friends, wine writer Tom Maresca and food writer Diane Darrow. Tom said he was bringing a “surprise“ red wine and was sure that I would like it.

We started with Champagne.

Champagne Deutz Rose NV () made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It has hints of red berries, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of cherry.

For a light starter, we had bites of sweet honeydew melon wrapped in prosciutto, plus olives and Sicilian almonds.

 Monte di Grazia Rosso 2009 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has aging potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast a few years and it may be the best wine he has made so far!

Our first course was Penne with Zucchini, a recipe from Tommaso Verdillo of Tommaso’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. It is made with a fresh tomato sauce, zucchini, prosciutto and pecorino romano cheese. I liked it so much, I ate three servings.

Taurasi Radici 2000 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but has a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1998 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather.

Our second course was assorted grilled sausages: cheese and parsley, sweet Italian and goat chorizo, with a mixed tomato salad and potatoes fried with sweet peppers.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 Dave Caparone – I first discovered the wines of Caparone a few months ago when Tom Maresca organized a tasting of their Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico from the 2014 and 1996 vintage. Tom wrote to the winery about the 1974 and  Marco Caparone asked his father Dave and this was the reply.

“In 1973  decided to make wine.  For 6 years I was an amateur winemaker working at home.  During this period, I tried to learn as much as possible and I developed ideas about style and method that we still use today.  The 1974 Cab was a product of those efforts.  Of course, these amateur wines did not have the packaging format of commercial wines.  That wine was bottled in 1976 and has not been recorked. 

Beginning in the late 1960s there were new plantings of wine grapes in California’s central coast region (Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties).  these plantings were in places that wine grapes had never been grown before.  Most of the people involved had little or no experience in grape growing or premium wine making.  Needless to say there was considerable concern at the time about the eventual outcome of these efforts and the market for wines from such a new region.  As you can see from the ’74 Cab, they need not have worried.  Tepusquet Vineyards was one such planting.  I believe 1974 was only their second harvest.  My first commercial wine in 1979 was also from Tepusquet grapes.  The vineyard was later purchased by Robert Mondavi and is located about 12 miles East of the city of Santa Maria.”  .  We are beginning harvest (Zinfandel came in yesterday) and so far everything looks very good.  This will be my dad’s 45th harvest.”

This is a lovely well balanced wine, showing no signs of age with very nice dark fruit and hints of eucalyptus and a touch of bell pepper. 1974 was a classic vintage in California and this may be the best example it was my pleasure to drink. Tom can surprise me with wine like this any time/


The  1974 Cabernet Sauvignon, this was the surprise. Tom said it was sent to him from the Caparone winery as a gift with other wines he ordered.

Tom was right, I really liked the wine. With the Cabernet Sauvignon we had two cheeses a soft and aromatic taleggio and a wedge of pecorino Toscano. This last is one of the most misunderstood cheeses I know. It’s a perfect cheese for eating and cooking, full of flavor and has none of the sharp saltiness associated with other pecorino cheeses.

For dessert Michele made Grappa Brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. These were dark and fudgy and not too sweet. She served them with raspberries and vanilla ice cream, but their flavor was so good, they could really stand alone. A glass of grappa was a perfect complement.

Grappa La Trentina “Tradizional” – Grappa Giovane  -Marzaddo Distillery– This is traditional grappa at its best.






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Filed under Caparone Winery, Deutz Rose, Mastroberardino, Monte de Grazia Winery, Uncategorized

Dinner with The League of Gentlemen

The League of Gentlemen has not gotten together in a long time to have dinner and drink wine. Since last week was the birthday of one of our founding members, some of us decided to celebrate his birthday at one of his favorite restaurants, Marseilles in NYC.  The theme was Burgundy but as always we started with Champagne, and there were a few surprises.

Champagne Blanc De Blancs Cramant Grand Cru 2008 Lilbert-Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from the Cramant in the Cote des Blancs. Most of the fruit comes from the Buissons vineyard that has very little topsoil and at 40 centimeters below the surface there is pure chalk. The vines were planted in 1936 and have a full southern exposure. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Dosage 7g/l. This is a crisp, complex Champagne with hints of citrus fruit and white peaches and hint of pear.

Meursault 1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils 100% Chardonnay. Located in the Puligny – Montrachet region of Burgundy covering 10 hectares of vineyards. They harvest by machine and allow other plants to grow between the rows of vines. The wines are not released by the winery until they feel they are ready to drink. The wines are fermented without stalks in cement cuvees and aged in barriques, mostly used for 10 months. The wine has hints of honey and nuts with mineral notes and good acidity.

With the Champagne and the Meurasult we had oysters, clams and crab


Crab meat

Volnay Taillepiedes 1er Cru D’ Angerville 1998.  100% Pinot Noir The domaine’s plot of Taillepieds is 1.o7 hectares at the top of the hillside of Volnay, south of the village. The soil of Taillepieds is very poor and rocky. Its steep slope, the thinness of the soil and the particularly solar exposure give the wines of Taillepieds its finesse and elegance. The owner Jacques D’Angerville’s believes in non –intervention winemaking which he learned from his father. “ I want to do as little as possible to the wine,” he says.  After destemming, fermentation lasts for 10 to 12 days, with a 15 to 18 month élevage in mostly used barrels. To extract fine tannins, the cap was kept moist by twice-daily pump overs. This was drinking very well with nice Pinot Noir flavors and aromas.

Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “La Croix Rameau” 2002 D’ made from 100% Pinot Noir. The soil is pebble alluvium and the vines are 40 years old. The vineyard is situated at the bottom of Romanée Saint Vivant and is part of the Clos des Neufs Journaux that was previously owned by the monks of Saint Vivant. Croix Rameau is the smallest 1er cru in the Vosne-Romanée, just 6 hectares. Harvest is by hand and the use of any chemicals is avoided. The present owner Jean-Jacques Coudray-Bizot like to quote his grandfather Dr. Bizot who was a surgeon and wine maker at the Hospice du Beaune. When it comes to wine “you have to hurry up and wait.”  This is very traditional Burgundy, opulent and meaty with nice fruit and hints of spice.

Gevrey – Chambertin  Dominique Laurant 1998 100% Pinot Noir  Dominique Laurent produces wines from his small négociant business in Nuits-St-Georges. He sources fruit from very old parcels and his offerings range up and down the Cote d’Or. He makes his own barrels and only uses Tronçais wood, selected by him, and air dried for at least 3 years and in some cases 7 years. He sells barrels to other Burgundy producers. Dominique finds plots of old vines in the best part of interesting vineyards. The wine is delivered early in the New Year from the producer who has vinified it, sometimes under Dominique’s directions. The wine may be transferred to new barrels, never racked, because it is essential to keep all the gas from the original barrel. The wine is aged without the addition of sulfur until ready for bottling.  This was a 1998 but did not seem as if it was ready to drink.


Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello “Santa Cruz Vineyards” 1988 made from 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. This was the surprise and it was served blind. This is a big wine but the label said 12% alcohol. I know many like this wine but I stopped drinking it after a few sips.

With the red wine we had steak

Muscat-Trockenbeerenauslese 1995 NO 5 (Austria) Kracher. The winery is in Burgenland an hour southeast of Vienna near lake Neusiedi. The area is ideal for the development of “botrytis cinerea” (noble rot). This was the perfect way to end a wonderful dinner.



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Filed under Burgundy, California wine, Meursault, The leagueM of gentlemen

My Birthday Lunch at Home

We were going to spend the weekend in Pennsylvania with friends, so we celebrated my birthday at home and Michele made some of my favorite dishes.

We started with crostini topped with prosciutto, fig mostarda and a drizzle of a special, aged balsamic vinegar.  The mostarda is something we picked up in Rome.  It has a jam like consistency and goes great with cold cuts or cheese.  It is sweet from the figs and slightly hot from mustard.  

For the first course Michele made pasta with clams with touch of tomato, a dish I always order when I am in southern Italy.

With the first two courses we drank the Lacryma Christ del Vesuvio Bianco 2015  from CantinMatrone made from 80% Caprettone and 15% Falanghina and 5% Greco.  The Caprettone is distributed over three vineyards located at 30, 120 and 200 meters. Falanghina and Greco are at 30 meters. The Falanghina and Greco are fermented together with a pressing and fermentation without the pomace. The Caprettone is vinified alone with a 24-hour maceration period with the pomace. Then a soft pressing and fermentation takes place without temperature control.  This helps to obtain a wine with slightly more intense color and a bouquet of aromas that are more related to the varietal and less to the fruity or floral notes due to fermentation. The wine has hints of citrus, almond and a touch of sage with good acidity.


When we were buying the clams I noticed some large fresh soft shell crabs, another one of my favorites.  Michele said that she would fry them in a tempura batter.  They turned out plump, juicy and crisp.

With the soft shell crab we drank Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2012 Donnachiara 100% Fiano.   The soil is chalky clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the 4 hectare vineyard is located at 600 meters.  Harvesting takes place during the second week of October. . The aging potential of the wine is 15/20 years. This is a wine with good structure and body. There were floral notes, aromas and flavors of citrus fruits, good acidity and a hint of smoke.

For dessert, Michele made a blueberry tart — I could have the whole thing

I finished the lunch with a glass of Grappa Riserva  from Distilleria Mazzetti in Piemonte.  It is  aged for 5 years in barrels made from 6 different woods:  oak, chestnut, ash, cherry, mulberry and juniper. I bought this grappa from the distilleria and opened it for my birthday!



Filed under Cantine Matrone, Donna Chiara Winery

On Tour with the Pecorino Toscano Experience

This was one of the most interesting and informative press trips that Michele and I have been on. We tasted Pecorino Toscano in all of it forms, went to a sheep farm, tasted the cheese with wine and with beer, had a cooking lesson and lunch afterward, ate in some very good restaurants, explored the Parco della Maremma, went to two cheese making plants and spent an evening in Siena.

We not only learned about how Pecorino Toscano is produced, but also about the Maremma and the area around Pisa in Tuscany, how to cook with it, and what to drink with it, .

Michele and the wild boar

We stayed in the Villa Fattoria Granducale Alberese which is owned by the Consorzio Tutela Pecorino Toscano DOP.  The Villa was originally a fort built in the 15th century by a Prior of the Order of the Knights of Malta.  It sits in a park like setting on a hilltop.  It has undergone many transformations over the centuries and in the 16th century a chapel was built next to the main structure.

For lunch on our first day we went to Ristorante L’Uva e il Malto in Grosseto.  The menu features seafood and it was very very good.  Afterward,  we took a tour of the historic center of Grosseto.

That night we went to the beach town of Castiglione della Pescaia where we had a tasting of Pecorino Toscano and a locally produced olive oil and other products.

The next day at the Villa Fattoria Granducale Alberese Chef Giuseppe Villani from the nearby cooking school, along with some of his students  conducted a cooking class. Chef Villani demonstrated several dishes made with Pecorino Toscano and some of us helped  helped him prepare them.  In the photo below, he is showing Michele his technique for tossing his homemade pasta together and pecorino Toscano in the pan.

Michele and Chef Villani

For dessert, the chef made these delicious Sardinian cheese turnovers made with Pecorino Toscano.

With lunch we had the wines of Provveditore presented by Cristina Bargagli. We tasted the Il Bargaglino Vermento Maremma Toscana DOC made from 85% Vermentino and 15% Trebbiano Toscano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ansonica.  The “Casaiolo” Maremma Toscana Rosato DOC made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Syrah. The “Provveditore” Morellino di Scansano DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese and the “Primo” Morellino di Scansano DOCG Riserva made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Alicante and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Waiting for our ride

That nignt we went on the horse drawn carriage ride in the Parco della Maremma. It took us an hour and a half to cross the Granducale pinewood forest and reach the beach and dunes of Collelungo.

The park is located south of the Maremma coast and it extends for 9,800 hectares from Peincipina a Mare to Talamone. The scenery changed as we passed Mediterranean  scrub, caves, dunes, sand and cliffs.

As the sun was setting we had  dinner on the beach with typical products of the area and a wonderful  Pecorino di Maremma.

By the time we finished it was getting dark and along the route we saw wild boar and wild cattle among other animals I could not identify. Their was some problem on the way back and the had two change the position of the horses. It was quite an adventure!!!

The next day we visited Caseificio il Fiorino were we saw first hand how Pecorino Toscano is made.  We were given a tour of the plant by the owners Angela Fiorino and her husband Simone Sargentoni.  In their natural cheese-aging caves, we tasted the cheese in various forms and toasted the cheesemakers with sparkling wine.  Simone said the company is over 50 years old  and all their products are made with sheeps’ milk from selected local breeding farms.

Producing Pecorino Toscano

Shaping the cheese

The cheese resting in a refrigerated room

The cheese in the aging cave

We went with Simone to a sheep farm where he gets the milk for a cheese.  The flocks are are raised in a limited territory specified by the Designation of Origin Protection (DOP).  The sheep come from different breeds, either those indigenous to Tuscany (mostly from the Massese breed) or those brought from the area of production from other places (Comisans and Sarda). We also saw the sheep being milked.

The next day left Acciaiuolo di Fauglia (Pisa) to visit Caseificio Busti, founded in 1955. Today Stefano Busti along with his son Marco and daughter Benedetta  manage the family company. This is a big operation and includes a large cheese making plant, a retail store and a restaurant. They have maintained the family tradition keeping the crafting method unchanged from the dry salting process, using a type of salt that comes from the nearby salt flats of Volterra, to manual cheese making and the crust treatment using natural products.

Putting tomato paste on the cheese which gives it a beautiful color and slight tomato flavor.

The finished cheese

We had lunch at Ristorante Il Rifocillo and a tasting of Olio Toscano IGP with Fabrizio Filippi,  president of the Consorzio Tutela Olio Toscano DOP.

We tasted the cheese and food with beer by Birrifico Artigianale J63 of winery Torre a Cenaia with Esther Filippi. Esther explained how the beer was made and the most interesting was the one made with 5% Vermentino wine.


JLIPS Birra Agricola Toscana con mosto di Vermentino made from water, barley malt, wheat flakes, hop yeast (Top fermentation) and Vermentino grape must 5%.  The style of the beer is Italian Grape Ale. The Vermentino must is added fresh while boiling. Vermentino grapes are grown on the estate. The color is golden yellow and the foam is fine, compact and persistent. It has fresh floral notes with hints of white fruit and grape aromas and nice minerality and a light taste of malt. The Alcohol is 6%. This was my favorite — the addition of  Vermentino  made it very mellow


We then went to Siena where we were privileged to see the presentation of of the new flag for this years Palio.  Afterward we enjoyed sitting in the magnificent Campo di Siena where we had dinner.

The trip was a real eye opener.  We not only learned a lot about this excellent cheese and all of its varieties, but we enjoyed visiting this remarkably unspoiled part of Tuscany.



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Filed under Italian Beer, J63, Pecorino Toscano