Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bosco Falconeria – Azienda Biologica Simeti -Taylor

 Recently, I heard from Mary Taylor Simeti, who wrote to ask me if I was going to a tasting of Sicilian wines being held in NYC.  Mary writes about Sicilian food, culture and history.  Her books include On Persephone’s Island:  A Sicilian Journal and Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty Five Centuries of Sicilian Food.

 Mary wanted to make sure that I was going to the tasting because she and her husband have a small winery, Bosco Falconeria Azienda Biological Simeti Taylor. The winery is located in the hills overlooking the Gulf of Castellamare about 40 miles west of Palermo and has been in the Simeti family since 1933. In 1989 with Bosco Falconerian as its trademark, the farm obtained official organic certification, one of the first in Sicily to do so.

 The winery produces three wines and the total production is less than 10,000 bottles. Mary hoped that I would like the wines. Not only did I like all three of them, but they were some of the best and most interesting wines at the tasting.

The Wines of Bosco Falconeria

 Falco Perregrino 2010 IGT Sicily, this wine is 100% Cataratto, organically produced, (certified by Codex). The production area is the Contrada  Bosco Falconeria and the altitude is 800 ft. The soil is calcareous and of medium texture. In the vineyard the system of training the vines is vertical trellises and alberello (bush) and there is no irrigation. There are 2,700 vines per hectare, which have an average age of 12 years. The vineyards are treated 2 to 4 times a year with copper-sulphate products and the fertilization is green manure with leguminous and spontaneous vegetation. The harvest is manual and takes place the first half of September.

Mechanical destemming and crushing is done with a destemmer with rollers.  Via email, Mary explained how it works “… it is an aged do it yourself homebrew destemmer with rollers, but it works on the same principle as the fancy industrial one. The grapes go into the funnel on top (my vocabulary is not technical!) at the bottom of which are two ridged rollers that tear the grapes off the stems and give them a light crushing. The grapes and stems drop into a perforated cylinder – in this case horizontal but can be vertical – and the grapes fall through the holes while the rotating paddles, which work like a screw, push the stems out the side. Sort pressing takes place with a pneumatic press. Fermentation takes place in temperature–controlled stainless steel tanks for 25 days.

 The wine is stabilized by refrigeration, filtration is with a plate filter and the clarification is done with bentonite. They use select yeasts certified saccharomyces cervisiae (olivar ogar). There is no sulphur dioxide added. I asked Mary about how long this wine would last without the addition of sulphur dioxide and her answer was “Our first Falco was 2009 and it lasted beautifully, actually it was better a year after bottling and we are treasuring the last 20 odd bottles which we are still drinking with pleasure. The 2010 was bottled in February and we have had no problems with that either.” Production is 1,000 bottles all with corks. She also said that they just started the Falco 2011 macerating on the skins with only spontaneous yeasts.

  Catarratto 2009 IGH Sicily 100% Cataratto organically produced, extra-lucido (certified by Codex).  It is the same as the wine above except the average age of the vines is 8 years and there are 30mg/hl of sulphur dioxide added at pressing and 5mh/hl at bottling. There are 5,500 bottles produced.

 Nero d’Avola 100% Nero d’Avola organically produced (certified by Codex) Same as above except the average age of the vines is 10 years. Fermentation takes place on the skins for 10 to 12 days. The wine is refined in stainless steel for about 5 months. 50mg/hl of sulphur dioxide is added at pressing. 2,000 bottles are produced.

 Unfortunately the wines are not imported into the US at this time, but they are looking for an importer and I hope they will be soon.


Filed under Azienda Biological, Bosco Falconeria, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Mary Taylor Simeti, Organic wine, Sicilian Wine

A Tale of 2 Wines, 2 Steaks and Old Memories

 Gran Vino del Chianti 1953 Villa Antinori Cantine dei Marchesi L. e P. Antinori

1953 was a not a very good year in Tuscany but this was one of the best older Chiantis that I have tasted. It ranks right up there with the 1947 and 1958 Gold Label from Ruffino.   I believe that it was mostly Sangiovese and Canaiolo with some white grapes, most likely Malvasia. The governo method was probably used (10% of the grapes are dried and added back into the wine). It was most likely aged in large Slavonian oak barrels.

 This wine called for a Bistecca Fiorentina but at Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there was none to be found.  However, they did have a very well prepared Petite Sirloin with roasted potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and mixed green vegetables in buttermilk. The combination of the steak and the wine made me very happy.

 The American Institute of Food and Wine (AIWF) held its monthly dinner at Macelleria Restaurant in the meatpacking district in Manhattan. When I entered the private dining room I saw on the wall the banner for the Ordine Del Cavaliere Dei Vini Nobile. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s I was a board member of the Ordine, the best Italian wine organization that ever existed in this country. The list of members included all the important wine and food people in NYC and I have a group picture to prove it.

 Macelleria is owned by the daughter of Sergio Bitici. In the 1980’s and 1990 Sergio along with his brothers owned a number of Italian restaurants in NYC.  Sergio was the Chairman of the Ordine. When I saw him at Macelleria, we had a long discussion about the Ordine and how tuxedos were required for the events and how the men complained about it.  In reality, everyone really liked getting dressed up, especially the women!  

My Induction into the Ordine by Sergio Batici(on the left)

 I noticed a number of interesting watercolors on the walls of the restaurant.  When Sergio saw me looking at them, he said that he had painted them. I told him that next time he had a showing to invite me as I was interested in one or two of the paintings. There was a drawing for one of Sergio’s painting that night to benefit the AIWF but I did not win. However, I did win a fabulous basket of Italian products from Coluccio and Sons.

 We had a very nice meal and the highlight was a Bistecca Fiorentina from DeBragga (New York’s Butcher) that was cooked to perfection and went well with the Chianti Classico.

 The wine was a 2006 Chianti Classico Marchese Antinori Riserva made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and other complementary red grapes. After a destemming and gentle pressing the must for this wine was placed in steel tanks. Gentle pumping and destestage followed and the must was separated according to varietal. Malolatic fermentation was spontaneously completed in 225 liter oak barrels of second and third passage. The skin contact for the Sangiovese was 12 days and for the Cabernet Sauvignon a little over two weeks. The wine was then aged in small oak barrels for 14 months and tasted barrique by barrique before being bottled. It was aged for one year in bottle before being released. The wine was a little too modern in style for my taste and I hope they will go back to making wine as they did in the past.

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Filed under Antinori, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Wine

The Wines of Davide Sada and Dinner by a Tuscan Chef

Davide Sada is a wine lover and always dreamed of owning his own winery.

Davide however was involved in the family business; his great-great grandfather had patented the technique of vacuum-canning foods and was the creator of what was to become Simmenthal, Italy’s best-known brand of tinned beef.

 Sig. Sada at first wanted to start a winery in Friuli, but he changed his mind and his career when he met the well known Italian enologist, Maurizio Castelli, who convinced him to look in the northern part of the Maremma.  After a detailed analysis of the land lying between Casale Marittimo, Bibbona and Bolgheri by a geologist friend of Castelli, Davide purchased land that they felt was best suited for growing quality grapes.  The new winery was named Azienda Agricola Sada – Fattoria “Carpoli”. 

Chef Vallini and Davide Sada

 Recently, at the Hotel Michaelangelo in NYC Sig. Sada presented his wines at a very special dinner of simply prepared traditional Tuscan food.  The dinner was prepared by Emanuele Vallini, chef/owner of La Carabaccia in Bibbona, not far from the winery.  Sig. Sada is so proud of the food of this area that he flew Chef Vallini to the US to prepare the food for the dinner.

 Vermentino Toscana IGT 2010, 100% Vermentino. The production zone is the Casale Marittimo. The vineyards are at 350 meters. The training system is spurred cordon and the harvest takes place toward the end of September. Vinification is in stainless steel and the wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation. It is aged 5 to 6 months in steel and 2 to 3 months in bottle before release. The wine was fresh and fruity with flavors and aromas of green apple, grapefruit and a touch of honey. It was a perfect combination with the Coccoli della Carabaccia (fried bread dumplings, zucchini flowers vegetables and sage leaves that were passed around as finger food. It also went very well with the first course pappa al pomodoro (bread and ripe tomatoes porridge, flavored with garlic, onions, basil and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.) $26

 Integolo Toscana IGT 2009 Made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30-40% Montepulciano.  Sig Sada said that if the vintage is lacking and more color is needed in the wine, they will add a small percentage of Alicante, so grape percentages may vary according to the harvest. The production area is Bibbona. The vineyards are at 120 meters, the training system is guyot and the harvest is toward the middle of September. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, aged in steel for 3 months and aged 3 more months in bottle before release. Sig. Sada said that he was trying to make a wine characteristic of the area that was low in price and low in alcohol,  what he called “a wine for every day drinking”.  It is only 12.5 degrees of alcohol because the leaves of the plants are shaded from the sun. The wine had flavors and aromas of fresh red fruit, with hints of blueberry and good acidity. I think he has succeded.  It is an easy drinking wine and went very well with the farro della Garfagnana con pancetta e porro su crema di pepperoni (a timbale of spelt from Garfagnana with bacon and leeks, over a bell pepper cream) $19

 Baldoro Toscana IGT 2008 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Montepulciano and 5% Alicante. Vine training, altitude, harvest and vinification as above. The wine is aged is stainless steel for one year and in bottle for 6 months before release. This wine had fruity red berry flavors and aromas with hints of blackberries and blueberries. This wine had more body than the Integolo and had a longer finish and more lasting aftertaste.

Sig. said that the Baldoro started out as being his “every day” wine but it soon developed into a complex wine with more body and fuller aromas and flavors than the Integolo.  He felt that Baldoro would be an excellent wine with steak. We had it with La Carabaccia di Caterina de’Medici (onion soup with fresh egg soup) $26

Carpoli Toscana IGT 2006 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  Sig. Sada said that these were the classic grapes of Bolgheri in the Maremma. The altitude, training system, harvest, and vinification are the same as above. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Less than 1/3 are new and the rest in second and third passage barriques. It spends 8 to 10 months in bottle before release. Sig. Sada said that this was his “Super Tuscan” and a wine to age. It was a little too modern for me but not over the top and was better with the filetto di maiale in crosta di erbette e noci (polk filet in a crust of herbs and walnuts.) $44

 Vermentino Toscana IGT 2008 100% Vermentino- Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest)

This wine is not for sale at this time and is only made for family and friends. It was dark brown in color, very dense, thick and sweet. However with the dessert crema di mascarpone con sbrisolona di cantucci (cream of mascarpone with crumbles of cantucci) it was a perfect combination.

 At dinner I was sitting next to Sig. Sada and he said that the winery was organic but he does not put it on the label.



Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Maremma, Vermentino

Champagne,Old Wine and Good Friends

Nicole and Travis arrived with a magnum of Dom Ruinart Champagne.  It was too warm to drink so I put it in the freezer. They also brought a bottle of Grand Cru Chablis, which I immediately put into the refrigerator.  Just to make the evening interesting, they also had a bottle of 1962 Vino Nobile. But what should we drink while we were waiting for the magnum to chill?  Everyone seemed to want to start with Champagne and luckily I had a bottle on ice.

 We started with two Blanc de Blancs champagnes that were very different .The first was a Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV from Ulysse Collin. The owner/ winemaker Olivier Collin would like to be 100% organic but at the moment he cannot afford it. Being practical, he uses a mixture of organic and conventional methods. He is also working toward becoming biodynamic. He only uses indigenous yeast and the alcoholic fermentation is as long as needed followed by malolatic fermentation. He uses very little dosage or no dosage at all. This is a very dry wine, with good acidity and white peach aromas and flavors. It was the perfect way to start the evening.


Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1993 Dom Ruinart (Magnum).  Founded in 1729, this is the oldest Champagne house.  In his book Champagne for Dummies, Ed Mc Carthy says about this Blanc de Blancs “… it is unique among the great blanc de blancs Champagnes in that it combines the elegance and complexity of the best villages of the Cote des Blancs (54%) with the power and depth of Chardonnay from Ruinart’s own Grand Cru villages on the Montagne de Reims (46%).” This is a medium bodied elegant wine, toasty and smoky and a pleasure to drink. Many feel that this is an underrated Champagne house in this country.


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 1995 Carpineto made from 90% Sangiovese (locally know as Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.

In the spring I had lunch with Antonio Michael Zacchero the owner of Carpineto and we drank the 1985 and 1988 Vino Nobile. The 1995 was aged over 2 years in oak and one more year in bottle before release. They only make a riserva and it is aged one more year then the law requires. This was a younger version of the two older wines. There were aromas and flavors of red fruit, hints of porcini mushrooms and a touch of spice. It is a wine that will last for many more years.

  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Speciale 1962 Fattoria Bologna Buonsignori. Sheldon Wasserman in Italy’s Noble Red Wines states, “The few wines we’ve tasted from this producer have been outstanding wines of style and balance. They are, or were, the zone’s finest. Unfortunately, Sig. Bologna Buonsignori has retired, and the wine is no longer being produced. The last vintage he bottled was 1979.” I was looking forward to drinking this wine because it is no longer produced and I only had it once before at a dinner in my house with Wasserman which we matched steak. The wine was showing its age–all of the fruit was gone–but the wine was still alive. Once again, we ate it with a steak.  Sangiovese can age very well and for me it is the only grape to drink with beefsteak. 

 Vino Rosso Toscano da Tavola 1982 Grato Grati 100% Sangiovese.  This wine is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels. This wine is declassified Chianti Rufina. I have been drinking wine from this producer for a number of years now; in fact it is my favorite Chianti. The vintages I have had over the last few years have been the 1979, 1982,1988,1990,1995 and 1997(the last three are labeled Chianti Rufina) and have never found them wanting. To my great regret they are no longer available in NYC.

 Chianti Classico Brolio Riserva 1964 DOC Casa Vinicolo Barone Ricasoli.   Made from 75% Sangiovese, 12% Canaiolo, 8% Malvasia Bianco and 5% Colorino. The wine was aged for 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. The governo method (drying 10% of the grapes) was not used. I had a bottle of the 1958 in July and this was not showing as well but that was because the ‘58 was so good.  We also drank this wine with the steak and it was also a perfect match.1964 may have been the best vintage of Chianti in that decade. I wrote to the estate and asked them if they had any information on this wine. I was told that all the records were lost during the time when they were owned by an English company.

 Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” 2007 Vincent Dauvissat.   Last winter I was lucky enough to have had a bottle of the 1993.  This is an outstanding wine from the best of the grand cru vineyards, a great producer and one of the best Chablis that I have ever tasted. The 2007 was a younger version of the 1993. The 2007 was drinking very well but would be better with a few more years of age. It went very well with the cheese course.


Filed under Uncategorized

Lunch and Dinner with Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan(MW)

Some months ago, I mentioned to our friend Ed McCarthy that Michele and I were invited to a wedding in Massachusetts.  Ed, who has a home in that area, invited us to stay with him and, his wife Mary Ewing-Mulligan, and we gratefully accepted.  Ed and Mary are the authors of the Wine for Dummies books and Mary is an MW.  When I told Ed we could stay for only one day, he said, “We will have to fit in a lot of wine!”  It was a great weekend of wine and food but what I really enjoyed was the wine talk on subjects ranging from “leaf roll” in one of the single vineyards of Ravenswood Zinfandel, to a 1960 Coonawarra Estates Cabernet  from Australia which they had a few days before, and many other things between.  The six wines below were drunk during lunch and dinner.

 Ed always likes to begin with Champagne

 Champagne Brut Rosé “Celebris” 1998 Gosset It is 68% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir Grand Cru and 7% red wine from Pinot Noir.  I believe disgorging is by hand and it does not go through malolatic fermentation and the remuage is both manual and by gryopalettes. The color was a robust pink, a profusion of small bubbles in the glass with aromas and flavors of red fruit and hints of raspberries and strawberries. It made a wonderful aperitif. The current vintage is an “extra brut”.  Gosset located in Ay is the oldest continually operating wine firm in Champagne.

  “One of the main reasons that I wrote Champagne for Dummies is to share with you my enthusiasm for the lesser-known Champagne houses such as Gosset. This firm, owned by the Gosset family until a few years ago, has been making wonderful Champagne for as long as I can remember, and only a small number of people (in the United States at least) have experienced them”. I agree with Ed!

 Fiano di Avellino “Radici” 1997 Mastroberardino 100% Fiano di Avelliano (Campania)

The grapes are from the Santo Stefano del Sole vineyards and the soil sandy, deep and rich in minerals. The harvest takes place in the second half of October. Classic white wine vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. It has been my pleasure to drink Fiano di Avellino from this producer that has been 20-25 years old.  This is a white wine that can age and this 14 year old wine still has many more years in front of it. It had subtle white fruit aromas and flavors, more than a hint of smoke, and touches of honey and toasted hazelnuts. It was rich on the palate with a finish and aftertaste of slightly bitter almonds.


Arnad-Montjuret  DOC 2009 La Kiuva 75% Nebbiolo with some Pinot Noir and perhaps some Dolcetto (Vallée d’Aoste) This is a small co-op of 60 growers on 25 hectares of vineyards. They produce 8,000 cases of 3 different wines. Each grower tends his own plot with the help of the co-op’s agronomist. The wine is named for two small villages.

The local clone of Nebbiolo here is called Picatendro. Ed made me taste this wine blind and asked me where it came from and I said Piedmont, I was very close and I had never had this wine before. It is a light wine with aromas and flavors of cherry and a hint of spice. The wine was very easy to drink and the alcohol was only 12.5%.

 Vignabajla 1982 Angelo Gaja 100% Dolcetto. (Piedmont) This is a single vineyard Dolcetto and it is the wine Ed should have given me to taste blind.  Dolcetto means “sweet little one” even though the wine is dry. It should be consumed within the first few years. This wine still had aromas and flavors of cherry, was not showing any sign of age and if Ed had given me the wine blind and only told me the year, I would have guessed it was Nebbiolo!  Gaja no longer makes Dolcetto.

 Taurasi “Radici” 1994 Mastroberardino 100% Aglianico (Campania) the grapes are from the Montemarano vineyard that has a southern exposure and chalky clay soil. The harvest is at the end of October and the beginning of November. Classic red wine vinification with a long maceration with the skins and aged for about 30 months in Slovenian oak. This wine was produced before they began to use barriques. In the past Mastroberardino used cement tanks and both large chestnut and Slovenian oak casks for the wine. It is classic Aglianico with dark fruit flavors and aromas, with hints of smoke, leather and tobacco. Their Taurasi can last for many years and I have had wines in the last few years from the 1960’s and 1970’s that are still drinking very well.

The 1968 still remains a classic.

 Barbaresco “Martinenga” 1985 Tenute Cisa Asinari Del Marchesi DI Gresy 100% Nebbiolo. (Piedmont) The Martinenga vineyard is 11 hectares with a southern exposure and blue marl soil. Vinification is on the skins. There is 8 to 10 day fermentation with floating cap followed by 5 to 10 days fermentation with submerged cap. This wine was aged in Slovenian oak for at least 14 months. More recent vintages have a brief period in barriques. 1985 was a very good vintage for Barbaresco. The wine had red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherry, tobacco, leather and spice. It was not showing its age.




Filed under Barbaresco, Champagne, Dolcetto, Fiano di Avellino, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Mastroberardino

Champagne and Old Red Wine with Pizza at Keste

I think pizza is the perfect food and pizza margarita is my perfect pizza. When I go to Kesté Pizza and Vino with friends, I always order a margarita first and then a margarita with prosciutto and arugula, followed by one with salsiccia, etc.  I like to drink champagne and old red wine with pizza. Good Neapolitan pizza deserves good wine.

Our group, the G6, meets once a month to eat pizza and drink good wine. One of our members Ed McCarthy, author of Champagne for Dummies always brings champagne, and the rest of us bring red, but sometimes a white sneaks in. Here are four wines — two champagnes and two older reds that went very well with the pizza.  

 Champagne Blanc de Noirs “IL Florescence” 2009 100% Pinot Noir Cedric Bouchard.  This is a single vineyard, single vintage terroir-driven-grower champagne with zero dosage.  This champagne has only 4.5 atmospheres of pressure and only 19 to 20 grams of sugar was added. This was the way it was done before crown capsules came into use. Today, because of crown capsules, almost all champagnes have 24 grams of sugar added to the bottle during the second fermentation creating 6 atmospheres of pressure.

 Because it has zero dosage and less added sugar, it is one of the driest champagnes that I have ever tasted. The small bubbles exploded in the glass and the wine had a ripe green apple character with good acidity. It was one of the youngest champagnes that I have had. I was very impressed with it and it went very well with the mozzarella (Roberto, the pizzaiolo at Kesté, makes it by hand) and tomatoes as well as the pizza.

Lemon Pizza

 Champagne Grand Blanc  Brut 1988 100% Chardonnay Philipponnet.   Only the best Chardonnay grapes are used from the first cru and the grand cru of the Cotes des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims, including some from the Clos de Goisses. The wine is released five years after the harvest. The wine had a creamy and yeasty texture with hints of white fruit. It was very different from the first Champagne. We drank this with a “lemon pizza” smoked provola and lemon. This pizza brought out the acidity in the wine and made it taste fresher and younger.


Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 1977 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Emidio Pepe. The winery is organic and biodynamic and is a member of the AAA association of producers which sets the highest standards for its members for this type of farming and production. The soil is medium clay and the traditional Pergola system is used to train the vines. The grape bunches are harvested by hand. The “de rasping”(crushing) of the grapes is done in wooden tubs through a special net that is placed on top. It is a natural fermentation due to the presence of unique natural native yeast. The wine is then placed by bucket into small cement tanks, which because of their thickness, maintain a consistent temperature and protect the wine from outside disturbances. The wine is aged in cement tanks for two years. The wine is bottled by hand.  Rosa Pepe pours the wine from one bottle to another, eliminating the natural sediment. Emidio Pepe feels that filtering takes away a lot of very important elements from the wine. Natural decanting leaves untouched all the personality and balance needed in the wine. The labels are put on by hand. I believe the current vintage for sale in 2002. This is a great wine and for me one of the best Italian red wines. It was not showing its age and it had  flavors and aromas of cherry, leather and tar. (Look up Emidio Pepe on the net and see  the video of “grape gathering.”  It is very interesting.)

 Barolo “Marcenasco” 1970 100% Nebbiolo, Antiche Cantine della Abbazia dell’Annunziata Renato Ratti.  1970 was a very good year in Barolo but it was overshadowed by the 1971 vintage. Ratti was one of the first in Barolo to produce a “cru” and shorten the period of skin contact and time the wine remained in wood. I believe this wine was aged for two years in wood. It was showing its age when we first opened it but then began to develop in the glass and went very well with the pizza. It had aromas and flavors of mushrooms, tar, tobacco and herbs.


Filed under Barolo, Champagne, Italian Red Wine, Pizza and Wine