Monthly Archives: July 2012

Good Friends, Champagne and Old Wine

My friend Albert and I were planning to have lunch at restaurant SD26 in NYC recently. He told me he wanted to bring a bottle of 1966 Chateau Ausone and said that he also had another ‘66 and a ‘62. When I mentioned this to Irwin, a member of my wine group, he said that Ausone is his favorite wine. Then he said that if I would organize a dinner with Albert and the Ausone, he would bring a 1996 Champagne Krug and a 1931 Chateau Latour. Two other members of the wine group, Travis and Nicole, said they would come and bring some older wines, too. I could not wait to arrange this dinner. SD 26 was closed for an event on the night that we could all get together. However Tony May the owner said we could have one of the small private rooms and it was perfect.

The Wines

Champagne Krug 1996  Made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the percentage of each variety depends on the vintage. The wine is aged in used barriques. Full bodied, complex and dry with a hint of toast. This wine will last for many years. This is a great wine in an excellent vintage. Is there any better way to begin the evening than with Krug Champagne.

Grand Vin Chateau Latour 1931 Pauillac, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdpt.  Made from old vines in the 47 ha of the original Enclos. Today there are 10,000 vines per hectare but I do not know if it was the same 80 years ago. I believe 1931 was not a great year in Bordeaux but Latour is known for making great wines even in off years.  The wine is 81 years old and it was in great condition, good color, no signs of oxidation, elegant and balanced — a classic Pauillac.

My first experience drinking Latour was with the 1963 vintage, a very poor vintage. The year was 1969 and I paid $3.99 a bottle for the wine in a store in Brooklyn. The wine was wonderful and Chateau Latour became my favorite Bordeaux.

Barolo 1931 100% Nebbiolo. Borgogno This was the only disappointment. The wine was starting to come apart with celery aromas and high VA. We could not drink it.

Chianti Vecchio Della Fattoria Santa Christina 1943 Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori
The wine was mostly Sangiovese with some Canaiolo and Colorino, and two white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano.  Most likely the governo method was used. The wine was in perfect condition.  There were hints of fruit and the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines.
On the neck label it reads: “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti”.

Ask any producer of Chianti today and they will tell you that Chianti made with white grapes and using the governo method will not age. In order to make “great Chianti” they must use international grapes and concentrators and put the wine in barriques. Chianti has lost its identity. I guess the present Consortium does not defend the typical wine of Chianti.

Chateau Ausone Premier Grand Cru, St. Emilion 1962 Made from 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is only 7 hectares and there are 6,500 vines per hectare. This is a wine with great color and body with hints of leather and cherry and a great finish and aftertaste. It was one of the best St. Emilion’s I have ever tasted.  Then I tasted the Ausone 1966 and it was even better.

Fixin Clos Napoleon 1959 Domaine A.Ligeret 100% Pinot Noir.  The label indicated that it was a special bottling for the Chevaliers du Tastevin. The wine was showing very few signs of age and it was a elegant and classic Burgundy.

This was a very special dinner with good friends and great wine.  I cannot wait to do it again. Albert still has some more Ausone and Travis said that he had another Borgogno Barolo 1931.


Filed under Antinori, Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Chianti, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Wine

Italian Red Wine Under $20 for All Seasons

Over the past few months I have tasted a number of Italian red wines for under $20. The first two, on the list which I tasted last week at an event called Piemonte Land of Perfection’s I have had many times before and have always enjoyed. The last two on the list were a new discovery.

Dolcetto “D’OH”  2011 Piedmont Dolcetto  DOC 100% Dolcetto Clavesana  Fermented is temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of cherry that is to be drunk young. It is traditional Dolcetto.  $11

Barbera d’Asti DOCG “Vespa” 2011 100% Barbara Cascina Castlet  The vineyards are at 300 meters and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The soil composition is clay and limestone. Pruning and harvesting (the middle of October) are done manually. The must is left in contact with the skin at controlled temperatures for 6 to 8 days. There is frequent remortgages and racking is followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is bottled and released after a few months. It is a fresh fruity Barbera with aromas and flavors of cherry and blueberry and good acidity. $14

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is guyot and spurred cord, and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slovenian oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 Poggio Stella made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 24 months. $19.

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT  2006 Domodimonti The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months. There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Ciró Rosso Classic Superiore “Liber Pater” DOC 2009 Ippolito 1845 (Calabria) The wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel. This is a rustic wine with deep red and black fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather. It has a long finish and a distinctive aftertaste. $16

Rosso Piceno Superiore 2007 DOC ”Vigna Montetinello” Montepulciano 70 % Sangiovese 30% Saladini Pilastri
The vineyard is at 200 meters and the exposure is west- east. The cultivation system is vertical shoot positioned trellis and there are 2,000 plants/ha; the average age of the vines is 30 years. Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 18 months in French tonneaux. This is a wine with nice red and black fruit, with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $17.99

Aglianico IGT 100% Aglianico. Donna Chiara. The soil is clay, training system is guyot and there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the second week of November. This wine does not see any wood. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months. This is a very aromatic wine with wild berry aromas and flavors and hints of blueberries and cherries. $18

I could not believe the price of the next two wines after I tasted them. They are true bargains. I believe that both of them were awarded three glasses by Gambero Rosso, their highest award.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Vignafranca DOC 2007 Fratelli Barba100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 70 meters and the soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous. There are 6,000 vines/ha, the training is double guyot and the exposure is southwest. The harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is in wooden conical base vats for 18-20 days.  The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of cherry and spice with a hint of pepper. 14.99

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “I Vasari” Old Vines DOC 2008 Fratelli Barba 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Colle della Corte vineyard is at 70 meters and has a southwest exposure. The soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous and the vines are 30 years old. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, the training system is double guyot and the harvest takes place in the middle of October, fermentation takes place in wooden conical base vats for 18 to 20 days. The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months.
This is an intense wine with flavors and aromas of black cherry blueberry and plum with a hint of spice. $18


Filed under Aglianico, Barbera, Chianti, Ciró, Clavesana, Dolcetto, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano, wines under $20

Eating and Drinking in Rome

If I were a rich man I would have and apartment in Rome and a house on the Amalfi Coast.  While I cannot buy a house on the Amalfi coast, I can rent one for a vacation and on the way, why not spend a few days in Rome?

We always go to the same place for lunch when we arrive in Rome.  We drop off our bags and walk to Da Giggetto(39-066861 05) at Portico D’Ottavia 12A, in the Jewish ghetto.  The afternoon was sunny and too hot to dine outside so we sat in a newly opened room with big glass windows onto the Portico D’Ottavia and the synagogue.

Fiori di Zucca e Carciofi

I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici The flowers were small and crunchy and very good.  I also get carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci. The tiny clams were tender and seasoned with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. Michele had il filetto di baccala (she loves the way the Romans fry) and the puntarelle in salsa d’ alici, her favorite salad, a type of chicory.  It was a relaxing start to our trip.
For a number of years now we have been trying to go restaurant Armando al Pantheon but somehow never get there because it is always booked up.  This time, Michele made a reservation on line from NYC.  We started off with what I always order in a traditional Roman restaurant:   zucchini flowers, bucatini alla matriciana and abbacchio arrosto. The dessert was a strawberry crostata with a lattice top.    Michele really loved the food here.  The wine was the 2005 Montepulciano D’Abruzza, from Emidio Pepeit was less than 40 euro–a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I would have expected. Most of my experiences with these wines are ones that are 25 years and older. The wine prices in Rome, especially for non-local wines, were better than on the Amalfi coast.

At Checchino dal 1887  V (, Via  Monte 30 Testaccio, Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen. A number of years ago Francesco did us a big favor by getting us on a train to Genoa during a train strike.   Aside from that, it is in my opinion that with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world, this is the best restaurant in Rome for both wine and food. I always have long conversations with Francesco about Italian wine and which wine I should order with what I am eating.  Every time I go, Francesco remembers the wine I ordered the last time I was there.  This time he recommended a wine from Lazio, Cesanese del Piglio 2005 DOC  from Azienda Agricola Marcella Guliano. They no longer have any Fiorano Rosso or older vintages of Colle Picchione “Vigna dal Vassallo”.  They still have a number of vintages of the Fiorano Bianco, but serve it as a dessert wine.

Traditional Amatriciana

Once again I ordered the tasting menu because it had all of my favorite foods. I started with a tortino of eggs, peppers and tomato; this was followed by pasta alla Matriciana (yes again).  It could not have been better.  Then rabbit (coniglio alla olive di Gaeta con rughetta and pomodoro) followed by torta de mele (apple tart).

Checchino is still a member of L’ Unione di Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo, a group of restaurants that give you a plate if you order their signature dish or tasting menu. Since we both ordered the tasting menu we were given two plates.  We have almost 100 of these plates and eight are from Checchino.

Pierliugi(39-06-6861 302) Michele loves to sit al fresco at this seafood restaurant, which is in the charming Piazza dè Ricci but it was close to 95 degrees so we opted to do what all the Italians were doing- -eat inside and enjoy the air conditioning.

Amatriciana with Shellfish

We started with the stuffed fried zucchini flowers, and then I had bocconcini di polenta con baccala, polenta bites with salt cod.  Michele had the very Roman cacio e pepe.  They have their own version of pasta all’amatriciana made with paccheri, a wide pasta tube.  The sauce includes shellfish and of course I had to order it. It was very good but I would have enjoyed it more if there were less pecorino cheese, which seemed a bit much for the shellfish. For the main course I had scampi (langoustine) and large shrimp on the grill. The waiter was very good and we had a long discussion about wine.  I ordered the Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2009 made from 100% Fiano from Guido Marsella.  Pierluigi’s wine prices were higher than any restaurant we visited in Rome on this trip.  When we told the waiter we were from NYC he told us that the owner might want to speak with us since he is opening a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. After we finished lunch the owner, Lorenzo Lisi, came over and told us all about his plans for the new restaurant and that it would open in September.


Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. This is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and


cheese. Michele likes the restaurant because she believes it has the best carbonara in Rome. It also has some very creative items like the hamburger di bufala with grilled ham and a balsamic drizzle, and the burrata e alici, both of which we ordered along with the carbonara. I usually order the matriciana but Michele is right, the carbonara was terrific.  The wine was the 2003 Cerasuolo (Rosè) 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo from Eduardo Valentini. It was less than 40 Euro. For more on Rome see Wine in Rome a great blog by Tom Maresca.


Filed under Amatriciana, CarbonareRestaurant Da Giggetto, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Restaurant Checchino 1887, Restaurant Pierliugi, Roman Restaurants, Rome, Roscio Salumeria Vineria con Cucina


My motto has always been that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on wine to drink well. Over the last year I have tasted  many excellant Italian white wines that are under $20.  Here is a list of some of my favorites.

Frascati Superiore Secco 2009 DOC Lazio Fontana Candida Made from 60% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. The grapes come from hillside vineyards in the DOC zone located in the province of Lazio, in the communes of Frascati, Monteporzio Cantone, Grottaferrata, Montecompatri and Rome. The grapes are harvested between September and October and immediately transported to the cellar where they are gently pressed. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and then bottled under nitrogen to protect its freshness and fruit. The wine has aromas and flavors of white peaches and apples. It has good acidity and minerality with a long finish and a nice aftertaste. $10.

Bianco Veronese “Ferdi” 2009 IGT Sartori di Verona (Veneto) made from 100% Gaganega.  There is a careful selection of handpicked grapes from different vineyards that are partially dried in small boxes for 30- 40 days (appassimento) in order to reduce water and concentrate sugar content and color.  3 grams of sugar per liter in the wine is balanced by the acidity. There is a light cold soaking. The pressing of the grapes is followed by short skin maceration at a low temperature.
Part of the must is fermented in 500-liter oak tonneaux but the oak is not new. The remainder is aged in stainless steel. The wine is then left to mature on its lees for 6/7 months. This adds mouth feel and intensity. The wine is aged in bottle for at least 3 months before release. The wine has subtle floral notes with hints of pears and apricots and good acidity.  $14

Gavi del Comune di Gavi DOCG 2010 Beni di Batasiolo 100% Cortese (Piedmont) the vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity. $18.99

Cuppa Ramato 2009Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio IGT 2009 Attems.
The harvest took place near the end of September and the grapes were harvested by hand. Vinification takes place in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. Fermentation lasted for seven days. For this wine the skins remained in contact with the juice for 12 hours and the wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for four months in barriques and two months in stainless steel and one month in bottle before release. It has the color of a blush wine. The aroma is very aromatic with hints of strawberry and cherry. It is quite firm on the pallet with a nice fruit in the finish and aftertaste. It is a most interesting wine! $19

 The history of the Orange Wine
This wine goes back to the way Pinot Grigio was made during the time of the Republic of Venice. Ramato, meaning copper, was the term used to describe the color of the wine. Some clones of Pinot Grigio can also be copper in color. The traditional vinification process led to the use of this name. The must remains in contact with the skins for 36 hours and this gives the wine a very distinctive coppery hue. The term “orange wine” is used to describe white wine where the juice has had skin contact.

Grechetto Dell’Umbria IGT 2010, made from 100% Grechetto. Scacciadiavoli The harvest takes place the first ten days of September. Vinification takes place in steel tanks on the lees and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in bottle for 3 months before release. Grechetto is a native Umbrian varietal and this a wine to be enjoyed when it is young. It is fresh and fruity with floral hints and good acidity. $18
Vermentino Maremma Toscana IGT 2011 Cecchi 85% Vermentino and 15% other approved grapes. The vines are at 150 meters and the training system is guyot. There are 5,500 grapes per hectare. Harvesting takes place the beginning of September. After the grapes are picked they are left for 12 hours at a temperature of 8°C in contact with the skins in order to keep the primary aromas.
Fermentation takes place in small stainless steel tanks for 18 days and the wine remains in bottle for two months before release. $16
Pecorino 2009 Offida DOC 100% Pecorino Saladini Pilastri.  The vineyard is 4 hectares at 150 meters with gravelly soil and east/northeast exposure. Training system is vertical shoot-positioned trellis, and there are 4,200 plants/ha. The harvest takes place in the middle of September and the grapes are organically farmed. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days. This is a wine with floral and herbal undertones and nice citrus aromas and flavors.  $14.99

Scavigna Bianco DOC 2010 Azienda Agricola Odoardi (Calabria) made from Greco Bianco, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco and Riesling. The winery is at 600 meters. The soil is calcareous clay and the training system is Guyot. The harvest takes place in late August and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine has flavors and aromas of white peach and herbs. They are one of the few producers that make this wine.  Owners are Giorgio and Giovanbattista Odoardi. $17

Falanghina Beneventana IGT 100% Falanghina  Donna Chiara.(Campania)  The soil is chalky clay, there are 2,500 vines per hectare, the training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Fermentation in stainless steel at controlled temperature for 40 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation and does not see any wood.
The wine was fresh with hints of citrus and floral aromas and flavors, good acidity and is a very pleasant wine to drink. $18


Filed under Calabria, Ciró, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Frascati, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Odoardi winery, Sartori di Verona, Scacciadiavoli, Scavigna Bianco, Vermentino, wines under $20

Costiera Amalfitana: Praiano-Amalfi-Cetara

Describing the views in Praiano is just about impossible. No matter where you are — from our rented house, the piazza in front of the church, our favorite Bar del Sole and the restaurants and hotels, you can see Capri in the distance and nearby Positano.  The hotels San Pietro and Tritone are visible and built into the cliffside overhanging the water. At night the sun sets on the mountain behind Positano. And of course there is the sea.

The first and last restaurant we always go to in Praiano is La Brace, a local trattoria.  We first discovered it in 1983.  Like just about everything in the town, the restaurant is up a flight of stairs.  This was the beginning of my “Alici Period.”  Alici, for the uninitiated, is another word for acciughe, or anchovies.  These were fresh caught, not preserved, and have a rich flavor that is quite different from the kind in tins.

Spaghetti con Alici

I had spaghetti con alici and tomato followed by perfectly fried alici which were so good I almost ordered more.  Instead I ate some of Michele’s.  We drank Falanghina del Sannio 2011 from Cantina Taburno and on the second visit Greco di Tufo 2010 from Mastroberardino.  We also had fried alici on the second visit. Michlele ordered octopus (polpo) salad- she would order it often in different preparations on the trip. She also had the spaghetti with zucchini, a local specialty.

La Taverna del Leone

This may have become our new favorite restaurant. It is outside Positano and we decided to walk.  The road offers  great views that you do not see from the bus or a car and you can stop and admire them.  However it is over 2km, there are no sidewalks and the road is narrow, and most of it is uphill.  We took the bus back and both ways the second time we went.

Chitarrine Amatriciana

Michele had the insalata polpo, octopus salad here also, followed by ravioli with baccala.  I saw on the menu chitarrine amatriciana with smoked guanciale from Sauris, a town in Friuli renowned for its smoked meats, and fish.  I just had to order it.  Michele explained that chitarrine are homemade spaghetti made on a device known as a chitarra, which uses guitar-like strings to cut the pasta.  This version was better than the amatriciana I have eaten in most places in Rome.  In fact it was so good I ordered it the second time that we ate here, along with the baccala in tempura batter.  Light and puffy, this was a great main course.

Both times we ate at La Taverna del Leone, we had the same wine Pompeiano Bianco IGTKarà “ 2010 100% Catalanesca from Societa Agricola Cantine Olivella.Cannoli

For dessert we had the cannoli filled with bufala ricotta.  They were so good; I ordered them both times, too.

Lido Azzurro is a very nice restaurant on the water overlooking the port in Amalfi.

Alici Fritti

We sat outside and I ordered the alici fritti con ripiene di provola fume, fresh anchovies stuffed with smoked mozzarella, spaghetti alle vongole, with clams, and scampi e gamberoni sulla griglia, grilled shrimp and langoustines. We drank the 2008 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I should have had them decant the wine, as it was still too young.

Ristorante al Convento

Alici Fritti

Is located in Cetara, a beach town just outside Salerno.  It is famous for its alici!  The restaurant has a nice outside terrace overlooking a small square with the town rising in the background. The menu features alici in a number of different preparations. I started with a misto of alici, followed by pasta puttanesca di alici and then alici fritti con cipolla. Michele’s first two courses were alici but she said basta alici and for the main course and had seppie arrosta.  I ordered a sparking Falanghina but they did not have it so I ordered Biancolella Ischia DOC 2011 Made from 85% Biancolella and 15% Forastera, San Lunardo and Uva Rilla Casa D’Ambra.

We liked the alici so much that we stopped in a store and brought 2 jars to take home.

Trattoria dei Cartari is a very unpretentious restaurant in Amalfi. We had eaten here before but this time it looked a little run down. All of the customers were tourists ordering pizza with beer or with cappuccino.  We almost did not go in. When the waiter came over to take our order he almost did not understand what we wanted. He kept on making suggestions and he could not believe that we knew what we wanted and were ordering a full meal. When he realized this he took away the paper napkins and utensils and replaced them with cloth napkins and better utensils!Alici

I started with fried alici, moved on to pasta with seafood, grilled langoustine, and for dessert a lemon cake topped with pine nuts. The wine was Falanghina “Serrocielo” 2011 from Feudi di San Gregorio.

La Caravella

This is a Michelin one star restaurant located just after the entrance to Amalfi. We have been here a number of times The and the same waiter is always there. It is an elegant restaurant with perfect service. We always order the tasting menu

There were many courses, but highlights included a tiny fried alici stuffed with provolain an anchovy and basil sauce.  Michele said she could have eaten 5 or 6 of those.

Pasta with two sauces

Squid ink ravioli with lobster filling, and pasta with 2 sauces, one spicy and the other with seafood also stood out.  As a palate cleanser, they served a creamy lemon sorbet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  The wine was Verdicchio Classico Riserva 2000 100% Verdicchio Bucci. This is a great wine!



Filed under acciughe, Alici, Amalifi Coast, Amatriciana, anchovies, Cetara, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, La Taverna del Leone- Positano, Praiano, Restaurant La Brace- Praiano, Restaurant La Caranella- Amalfi, Restaurant Lido Azzurro-Amalfi, Ristorante al Convento-Cetara, Trattoria dei Cartari- Amalfi