Monthly Archives: February 2013

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn

When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived


Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.


Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore

A Second New Year Celebration


The day before New Years Eve, Michele and I and a group of friends went to Bern’s Steak House in Tampa. We had a great time and drank some wonderful wines.

The New Year came again in February — the Chinese New Year–the year of the snake. This time we did not go very far to celebrate.  We went to Congee Village on Allen Street in NYC for their special Chinese New Year menu. The corkage fee is only $10 per bottle so we brought our own wines.  The food was very good and plentiful.

Steamed Live Fish

Steamed Live Fish

To begin our celebration of the year of the snake we started with Champagne.IMG_2753

Ferrari Perlé Rosé 2006 Trento DOC Method Classico made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. This is a vintage Rosé from the Lunelli family, owners of Ferrari, estate vineyards. The grapes are harvested by hand at the end of September on the hills surrounding Trento, with either southeastern or southwestern exposure between 1000 and 2000 feet above sea level. The wine is aged 5 years on selected yeasts. It is an elegant and complex Rosé with ripe red berry aromas and flavors with hints of raspberry and a touch of almond.  It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.  I believe that Ferrari makes some of the best Method Classico wine in Italy.
Grande Réserve Brut Bouzy André Clouet 100% Grand Cru estate-bottled Bouzy pinot noir aged six years on yeast; with strawberry, wheat kernel, and stone flavors along with a pleasing touch of cream in the mid palate and finish.

The Clout family owns 8 hectares of vines in preferred mid-slope vineyards in Grand Crus Bouzy and Ambonnay, and has excelled as a pinot noir specialist even within Bouzy, an appellation specifically celebrated for the quality of its pinot noir. The wines are cellared under the family’s 17th century village house – built by an ancestor who acted as printer to Louis XV’s royal court at Versailles. Respect for terroir is evident in these traditionally crafted wines. The labels are attractively old-fashioned in design.IMG_2759

Champagne Dom Ruinart  Blanc de Blancs1993 in Magnum.  Made from Grand cru Chardonnay grapes exclusively from the Côte des Blancs (66%) and the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims (34%). This is an elegant and powerful Champagne with nice fruit, hints of peach and pear, good minerality and a touch of toast.

Pan Fried Baby Lamb Chops

Pan Fried Baby Lamb Chops

Meursault-Charmes Premire Cru- Les Charmes Dessus 2007 Domaine Antonin Guyon 100% Chardonnay Meursault is one of the villages in the southern part of the Côte de Beaune. They have a 69-acre plot here. The soil is white marl and the vines are over 30 years old. In 2007 a sunny September allowed the grapes to ripen well and the harvest to take place under excellent conditions. Sorting of the grapes takes place at the winery. Fermentation is at low temperatures in oak barrels with stirring twice a week. The wine is aged in oak barrels 1/3 new and bottled after 15 months.

Chinese Vegetables E. Fu Noodles

Chinese Vegetables E. Fu Noodles

IMG_2750Meursault – Genevrieres Premier Cru 2000 Domaine Latour Giraurd A Premier Cru vineyard of the Meursault  appellation in the Côte de Beaune. It is a large vineyard located in the southern end of the commune. They have 10 hectares. The vineyard is divided into halves- Genevrieres above and Genevrieses below. The upper section has better drainage and more morning sunlight and therefore produces better fruit. Free run juice and wild natural yeast is used and the wine is kept on the lees for a long period of time with racking kept to a minimum. There is no fining or filtration. The wine is fermented and aged in barrels about 1/3, which are new between 14/16 months. I believe the wine is bottled by hand.

House Special Cold Dungeness Crabs-Chao Style

House Special Cold Dungeness Crabs-Chao Style

IMG_2762Chateau Beychevelle 1970 St. Julien 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Aged for 20 months in barriques, 1/2 new. This is what Robert Parker says about the 1970 in his book Bordeaux. “Fully mature with a spicy, plum-like bouquet, and some caramel aromas…round fruity, quiet silky and soft and nicely concentrated. It lacks the complexity and depth of the best 1970’s, but it is still quite attractive. Drink over the next 3-4 years”. He last tasted the wine in 9/84 and gives it an 84 rating.
I agree with Parker in his description of the wine except for the caramel aromas.  I do not agree with his rating.
Almost 30 years later the wine is showing extremely well. It is an elegant wine, complex, has depth and will last for a number of years.IMG_2760

Mas Daumas Gassac 1990 Vin de Pays l’Hèrault Languedoc. Aimé Guilbert.  Made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 different varieties. The winery is located in the Gassac Valley. A rare and still unexplained, red, fine glacial soil dominates the valley.  The grapes are hand harvested. Long fermentation and maceration, a minimum of 20 days, in stainless steel tanks and no filtration. The wine spends about 16 months in oak barrels, with a maximum of 10% new. This is a big, powerful wine that I first discovered with the 1983 vintage and have been drinking ever since.

There were two dessert wines, a Madeira Barbeito Sercial 1978 and a 1923 Sauterne I could not read the name of the producer.  The Madeira was showing very well. 


Filed under Andre Clouet, Bordeaux, Champagne, Chateau Beyechevelle, Ferrari, French Red, French White Wine, French Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Madeira, Mas Daumas Gassac, Meursault- Genevrieres, Meursault-Charmes, Spumante

Aroma, Wild Boar and Brunello

Whenever I think of wild boar, I think of Brunello, both of which remind me of the unforgettable meal I had in Tuscany a few years ago which featured pasta with wild boar ragu followed by wild boar ribs.   So when I heard that Aroma Restaurant in NYC was doing a wild boar menu and each course would be paired with a Brunello from Castello Banfi, I couldn’t resist.  

Castello Banfi

Castello Banfi

Philip Di Belardino, the director of fine wines for Banfi, was the host and speaker.  I have known Filippo, as his friends call him, for a number of years.  He is passionate about all things Italian and is an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker.  He explained how the Banfi company came to Montalcino in 1978 and purchased Poggio Alla Mura, now Castello Banfi.  Currently, Banfi is the largest continuous landowner in Italy. The company has done intensive research on the Sangiovese clone found the area.  They studied over 650 clones and isolated 3, which are vinified into their Poggio Alla Mura Brunello.

The WinesBrunello_di_Montalcino_Bottle

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 2007 100% Sangiovese (select clones).  The winter was mild and the growing season started early. Heavy rain in May and early June provided enough water reserves for the mid-June heat wave. The fall rainwater was perfect and the harvest was one week early, but lasted into the middle of October. The grapes come from over 100 small vineyards, some older, and some more recently planted with the selected Banfi clones.  A meticulous grape selection takes place. Fermentation is in temperature–controlled stainless steel/ French oak hybrid tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 12 days. Philip said that this was the first year Banfi used these hybrid tanks. The wine is aged in 50% French oak barriques, and 50% Slavonian oak casks for two years. Philip said that 2007 was a great vintage for them. By law the wine is released the 5th year after the harvest.
The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry and plum and a touch of tobacco. It has a long finish and very pleasant aftertaste. A winter greens salad, and braised boar shoulder with lardoons, which I really enjoyed, went very well with the wine.

The hybrid tanks–half stainless steel and half French oak–were invented and patented by Banfi. They had an exclusive on these hybrid tanks for three years before they were released for sale to other wineries.

Brunello Di Montalchino D.O.C.G. 2006 Spring rainfall allowed for water reserves over the hot summer months. High temperatures in July and an ideal range between daytime and nighttime temperatures in August allowed the grapes to ripen exceptionally well. The warm weather in September made it an excellent harvest. The vinification   was in stainless steel tanks otherwise it was the same as the 2007 as was the aging. Philip said that their wine maker believed 2006 was a slightly better vintage than 2007. Pici (handmade pasta strands) with wild boar ragu, porcini and pecorino tartufo went very well with the wine.

Pici, wild boar ragu,porcini and pecorino tartufo

Pici, wild boar ragu,porcini and pecorino tartufo

The next three wines were served with wild boar ribs in porchetta with Brussels sprouts. I like this best with the1998.Poggio_alle_Mura_Bottle

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. “Poggio Alle Mura” 2006 This is a cru (single vineyard).  The selected clones are from the slopes surrounding Castello Banfi. Fermentation for 12 to 14 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, traditional maceration with frequent pumping over. Malolactic fermentation is in barriques. It unfiltered. Philip said it was Banfi’s first unfiltered wine. The wine is aged for 24 months in 10% Slavonian oak casks (60hl & 120hl) and in French barriques. These are custom-made 350-liter oak barrels (larger than a barrique, smaller than a tonneaux).  These oak barrels are 1/3 new, 1/3 one-year-old, 1/3 two-year-old and are used for all of the Poggio Alle Mura.  This is an elegant wine with hints of plum, tobacco, coffee and a touch of leather. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste and has great potential for aging.

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 2004 This was a normal growing season, rain in the spring, overall lower summer temperatures, variations between night and day temperatures which lead to balanced ripening. Fermentation and aging is the same as for the 2006.
This is a complex wine, well structured with red fruit flavors and aromas, spice and a hint of vanilla.  This is the only one with a hint of vanilla. Personally I prefer the regular 2004 which I have tasted on a number of occasions and believe it to be a great wine. The wine needs time.  2004 was a very good vintage.

Wild boar rib in porchetta and brussels sprouts

Wild boar rib in porchetta and brussels sprouts

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 1998   Very dry and hot summer had a significant impact on the quality of the grapes, resulting in a contained vegetative development and, most significantly, a smaller berry size. The greater proportion of skin and seed to pulp dictated the terms of vinification. In order to soften the tannins, it was necessary to reduce the maceration time and remove the seeds from the vinaccia as much as possible.  Philip said that this was the second vintage of this wine coming from vineyards made up entirely of clones selected on the estate. This was my favorite wine of the evening. Elegant and complex with hints of raspberries, blackberries, plums and a touch of licorice with great balance.


Filed under Brunello, Castello Banfi, Montalcino, Poggio alle Mura

A Special Lunch With Friends

I always enjoy visiting my friends Louise and Ernie.  Louise is an excellent cook, and Ernie has a great collection of wines but most importantly, we really enjoy their company.  Conversation never seems to end and we always have a lot of fun.IMG_2644
On our most recent visit, the first two courses were  prepared by their 17-year-old grandson, Steven, who has been interested in cooking and eating well since he was a young child.  While Steven was in the kitchen preparing, we were in the living room drinking Champagne Roses Jeanne Blanc de Noirs 2008 Cédric Bouchard, a perfect way to begin the afternoon.IMG_2636
With Steven’s first course, sparkling fresh sushi with watermelon and yuzu, Ernie switched to the Champagne Roses Jeanne Blanc de Blancs    2008 Cédric Bouchard. The champagnes from this producer always impress me.  I believe he only produces single vintage, single vineyard wines and that they are fermented and aged in stainless steel and the winemaker interferes in the process as little as possible.  The bubbles were very small and it had a crisp, fresh taste with subtle citrus fruit flavors that would make it go very well with food.  This producer also makes a Champagne from 100% Pinot Blanc!  The fresh flavors of the sushi were a perfect compliment to this Champagne.IMG_2637
With the arrival of the red wines came our next course,  pappardelle with black truffles.  The pappardelle were cooked perfectly, coated with sweet butter and blanketed with shavings of aromatic truffles.  We savored every bite and thanked Steven for the delicious starters, sad to see that he had leave for his volunteer job at a charity kitchen.  IMG_2639Santenay Gravier 1985 Jessiaume Pere & Fils. 100% Pinot Noir. The vineyard is 4.76 hectares and the soil is hard limestone enriched with marl. The wine is aged for 12 to 15 months oak barrels, 20% new, then 5 months finishing is stainless steel bulk tanks before bottling.
It is a very elegant wine and very easy to drink.IMG_2638

Barbaresco 1978 Gaja 100% Nebbiolo was or next wine.  According to Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Angelo Gaja had been experimenting with barriques in 1969. By 1976 he was in charge of the winery and began to use new techniques such as, shorter fermentation (two weeks or less), and adding 40 to 70% whole berries to the fermentation must for fruitiness and to balance the tannins and oakieness from the barriques. The 1979’s were the first wines made entirely in the new style.

A few years ago at La Pizza Fresco in NYC I was fortunate to drink the 1978,1979 and 1982 side by side. There was a marked difference in the wines. The latter two wines were more concentrated and the oakieness had taken hold. They were a different style of wine.
This 1978 is a great wine showing very few signs of age, with black fruit aromas and flavors and hints of leather and balsamic. 1978 was a great vintage.IMG_2642

Our main course was a tender and juicy chicken breast stuffed with Fontina  Valle d’Aosta prepared by Louise.
With it, we drank Barolo Riserva “Vigna Rionda Di Serralunga” 1982 Cantine Duca d’Asti, Michele Chiarlo. Made from 100% Nebbiolo (Lampia and Michet sub-varieties) Wasserman in Italy’s Noble Red Wines gives the vintage his highest rating: 4 stars. When it comes to Barolo I always felt this winery was underrated because it is better known for its Barbera and Moscato di Asti.  This is classic traditional Barolo with dark fruit and hints of leather and tea showing no signs of aging. I do not believe they make this Barolo today.IMG_2643

Eselshaut Mussbacher Rieslaner Beerenauslese 1990  Muller Catoir. This was a very interesting dessert wine. It was not very sweet and had hints of apricot, peach and a touch of orange and went very well with the dessert, pear tart with sicilian orange mamelade and whipped cream.

Watch for Michele and I on WNYC channel 25 at SD26 for i-italy|tv Saturday at 11PM and Sunday at 1PM or catch us on line.

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Burgundy, Cedric Bouchard, Champagne, French Red, Gaja, German Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Michele Chiarlo