Monthly Archives: May 2013

Return to Sorrento

Michele and I have always been captivated by the scenery along the Amalfi Coast and especially the views from Sorrento. We decided to return to Sorrento again this year and rent an apartment with just such a view.

The view from our terrace

The view from our terrace

We found an apartment with a terrace and a fantastic view of Mount Vesuvius and the surrounding area. The cruise ships anchored right below the apartment, and at night so did the fireworks barge.  It looked like a private fireworks display just for us.  It was quite a sight!IMG_3101

The apartment did not have WiFi so we had breakfast in the morning and drinks at night at a cafè/bar called the Square and read our e-mail.  The first night in Sorrento we went for dinner to a restaurant called ReFood. There was a big display of fresh fish at the entrance that looked very appealing, though most of the tourists in the restaurant were eating steak.  Not a great idea.



We went for the fish and vegetable dishes which were very good.  I ordered an Etna Bianco Superiore 2006 Pietramarina from Benanti made from 100% Caracanti.IMG_3092

I had the grilled calamari and Michele had pasta with zucchini and cheese. Michele enjoys the zucchini in Italy because the variety they grow is less watery and has more flavor than the kind grown here.

One of the reasons we like to visit Sorrento is that it is easy to take the bus or the local train to visit surrounding towns and we don’t need to rent a car. One of our favorite places to go is to Restaurant Lo Stuzzchino, a scenic half hour bus ride from Sorrento in the town of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi.

The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio who is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was calling an order into the kitchen we would hear him holler “Mamma”.  It is a true family restaurant.IMG_3103

Last time we were there he introduced me to a wine made from the Caprettone grape from the area around Mount Vesuvius.  I really liked this wine and asked if he still had any. He said he had a wine made from this grape but from a different producer. So he brought over a bottle of the 2011 Caprettone from Casa Barone.



The food at Lo Stuzzichino is excellent. I ordered the ravioli again. There were six, two filled with cows milk ricotta, two from sheep and two from goat. Each pair had its own special sauce. Michele had pasta with potatoes and provolone cheese, a typical dish of the region, which she really enjoyed.

Antico Francischiello Restaurant is about 20 minutes by bus from Sorrento. It is a lovely restaurant with a great view of Capri and excellent traditional food so we returned again this year.



There was a group of Japanese tourists in the restaurant when we arrived that were having a very good time eating ravioli followed by whole fish roasted in a salt crust.  After lunch most of them ordered tea, which was served in teapots, and there were the small traditional teacups for them to drink from. The interior of the restaurant in very elegant and it is the only restaurant in the Sorrento area to be honored as one of the Historic Restaurants of Italy.

We started with a vegetable antipasto, which we had enjoyed the last time we were here, and it was just as we remembered it. The dish that was our favorite was home made pasta with artichokes and squid, something we have never had before.IMG_3142

They have a nice wine list but they were out of a number of things because they were waiting for a delivery. The owner recommended a Fiano di Avellino “Ventidui” 2011 from Villa Araiano and it was a good choice.

We also returned to Torre del Saraceno, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. The tasting menu that we ordered was 125 Euros a person but there were ten courses. My favorite course was the risotto topped with crispy seaweed.  It is a very elegant restaurant and the service is excellent. The chef Gennaro Esposito travels a lot, and in March we saw him outside SD26 in NYC where he was doing a special dinner.IMG_3132

The wine I ordered was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2006 Villa Bucci. 100% Verdicchio from vines which are 40 or 50 years old. This is a great white wine that I do not drink or write about often enough. It is aged for at least 1-1/2 years in Slavonian oak casks of 50 and 70 HL, very unusual for a white wine, plus in bottle for one year before release. It is very complex and elegant with hints of hazelnuts and honey and a touch of spice.IMG_3150

In Sorrento on the last day we returned to Restaurant Basilica. We sat outside in a corner table in the shade. I started with marinated white anchovies followed by pasta with scampi and tomatoes. Michele ordered mozzarella di bufala and said it was excellent. It looked so good that I had to order it, too.  It was delicious.IMG_3148

They had the 2004 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini, 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is one of my favorite white wines and it was about $55, less than retail in NY so I had to drink it. The waiter could not get the cork out of the bottle so he had to push it in.  Then he decanted the wine so there was no way to chill it.  We drank it at room temperature and I enjoyed it so much that I will never chill this wine again.




Filed under anchovies, Antica Francischiello, Basilica restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Restaurant REfood, Sorrento, Torre del Saraceno, Villa Bucci

The Scarbolo Wines from Friuli at Felidia Restaurant

The Scarbolo winery is located in the town of Lauzacco, in Friuli on the right bank of the river Torre, just South of the Colli Orientali. Patricia Savoy, the co-chair of the Wine Media Guild had tasted the wines with Valter Scarbolo, the owner of the winery.  Pat suggested that the Scarbolo wines be included in the Friuli tasting along with the Bastianich wines. IMG_3031

Scarbolo Wines

Pinot Grigio 100% Pinot Grigio. There are 5,500 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. The grapes are hand harvested. There is a soft pressing of the grapes immediately after harvesting. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The juice is cooled and the wine is decanted naturally to remove any particles remaining from the fermentation. The wine is aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 6 months with frequent batonnage. $16

Friulano 100% Tocai Friulano. There are 5,700 vines per hectare and the training is guyot. Several hand harvests are conducted with a final late harvest of about 10%. Soft pressing of 60% of the whole grape clusters right after harvesting. 30% of the fruit is destemmed and left on the skins for a brief period of cold maceration. The remaining 10% is dried out and gently pressed. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine has nice fruit and a hint of almonds.$19

My Time 2007 made from 40% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon and 30 Friulano. The three different varieties are harvested at the same time at pressed together. After cold decantation the juice is transferred t0 500 liter French oak barrels for fermentation. The wine is aged on the noble lees for 1 year in 500 liter French oak barrels with frequent batonnages. The wine is then aged in stainless steel tanks for at least one year. The wine is bottled when it is “time” and aged in bottle for 4 months before release. $39IMG_3047

Pinot Grigio XL 2007 in magnum  100% Pinot Grigio. The grapes are from their oldest vineyard “Mattia”.   There are 5,500 vines per hectare and the training is guyot. There is a careful selection of ripe bunches. The fruit is destemmed and transferred to temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, where the juice ferments with the skins for 6 days. After a soft pressing a small portion completes fermentation in 500 liter French oak barrels while the remaining juice stays in stainless steel. The wine is aged 9 months on its noble lees in stainless steel and tonneaux with frequent batonnages. The wine is aged in bottle for six months before release. The wine has good fruit with a hint of strawberry and apple. The 750 size is $25 a bottle.IMG_3037

Campo del Votto 2009 made from 100% Merlot.  This is a single vineyard wine made only in select years. There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot, harvesting is by hand and there are two separate harvests. The first whole clusters harvested are dried out for about 20 days, destemmed and transferred to small oak barrels for fermentation. The whole clusters from the second harvest are immediately destemmed and placed in small oak barrels for fermentation. There is frequent manual punch down of the cap. After fermentation the barrels are sealed and the wine remains in contact with the skin until mid December. The wine is aged in barriques for 2 years and then in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of ripe berries, with hints of chocolate and tobacco. $40IMG_3038

Refosco 100% Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. There are 5,800 plants per hectare and the grapes are handed harvested, destemmed, and placed in stainless steel tanks with large bases to promote extraction of color and sweet tannins through frequent pumping down. After fermentation the wine remains in contact with the skins for a few weeks. The wine is aged in French oak barrels of different sizes for three years and another 6 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with good fruit, hints of plums and a touch of spice $40


Filed under Felidia restaurant, Friuli, Scarbolo winery

Wines of Friuli at Felidia Restaurant

The Wine Media Guild has been holding its tastings and lunches at Felidia Restaurant for almost twenty years. At this season’s final tasting on May 1, the subject was the wines of Friuli.  Wines from 3 wineries were presented.  Lidia Maticchio Bastianich, proprietor of Felidia, and her son Joseph own the Bastianich Winery. Lidia stopped by to introduce her wines. She answered questions about the winery and told us how she became involved in the restaurant business. She said that her son was the driving force behind the winery and was very proud of the wines.

Peppino has been serving the Wine Media Guild at Felidia for 20 years

Peppino has been serving the Wine Media Guild at Felidia for 20 years

The Bastianich WinesIMG_3052

 Vespa (Wasp in Italian) Bianco 2010 DOC is made from a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10%Picolit (late harvest). The percentage changes according to the vintage and it is a field blend. The vineyards are located in the villages of Buttrio and Premariacco, in the Colli Orientali delFriuli DOC. There are 8,500 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are vinified separately, 50% in 4,000 liter oak botti and 50% in stainless steel. The Picolit ferments in 500 liter tonneaux. 60% of the wine undergoes malolatic fermentation. The wines remain on the lees for almost one year. The assemblage in aged in bottle for an additional year before release. This is an elegant wine with ripe pear aroma and flavor, a hint of honey and citrus, and good acidity

Vespa Bianco 2007 in Magnum this wine has aromas and flavors of mature pear and greater depth than the 2010. It was showing no signs of age. IMG_3049

Tocai Plus 2008 DOC Is 100% Friulano (Tocai) 90% is late harvest and 10% appassimento (dried grapes). The grapes come from a single vineyard of 60-year-old vines. The soil is calcareous marl. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and 60% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. The wine remains on the lees for 9 months and in bottle for one year before release. It has hints of candied orange peel, pear and melon with a nice finish and long aftertaste.

Vespa Rosso 2009 DOC 50% Merlot, 30% Refosco, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. There are 5,000 to 8,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. The wine is made by fermenting and macerating each variety individually in open-topped, 500 liter tonneaux barrels. The punch down is done by hand for the softest possible extraction. A vertical press is used which extracts softer tannins, as there is less skin-against–skin friction. The wine is aged for 18 months in Allier barriques and another year in barrel before release. This is a structured fruit forward wine with a hint of spice.

Vespa Rosso 2002 This wine is still fruit forward and has developed more complex flavors and aromas. It is showing no signs of age.IMG_3036

Calabrone 2008 70% Refosco, 10% Schioppettino, 10% Pignolo and 10% Merlot. There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. 50% of the Refosco and all of the Schioppettino grapes are dried for four weeks. The dried clusters are then de-stemmed by hand and gently crushed. Fermentation and maceration take place in open-topped 500-liter tonnaux barrels. The punch down is done by hand for the softest possible extraction. In is interesting to note that they use a vertical wooden press. After 24 months in new Allier barriques the assemblage is created. The wine is aged for 2 years in bottle before release. This is a big wine, with mature red fruit with hints of chocolate, coffee and spice.

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Filed under Bastianich winery, Friuli

Barolo, Barbaresco and Pre-Phylloxera Barbera

The Elvio Cogno Winery, situated on the top of Bricco Ravera, a hill near Novello in the Langhe region of Piedmont, is a favorite destination of mine when I am in the area.  I visit there not only for the wines, but also because Valter Fissore and his wife Nadia are very gracious hosts. Nadia is the daughter of the legendary Elvio Cogno.

Valter and Nadia

Valter and Nadia

Valter was in NYC recently and invited me to a tasting of his wines and lunch at Felidia restaurant.

For more information on the Cogno Winery

The WinesIMG_3029

Barbera d’Alba “PRE-Phylloxera” DOC. Made from 100% Barbera. Valter said that the vineyard is over 120 years old. He rents the vineyard, which is situated in Berri close to La Morra. The vineyard is only 3,400 square meters. The vines are vertically trellised and Guyot pruned and the vineyard is at 520 meters. The grapes are harvested in the beginning of October. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pump over. Aging takes place for 12 months in large Slavonia oak casks and another 6 months of bottle age before release. Only 1,800 bottles are produced.

This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and cherry and a touch of spice. It is a Barbera that will age. I was very impressed with this wine. $60

Valter explained that the vines come from pre-grafted plants propagated by cuttings that they have maintained over many years and therefore they have the original Barbera characteristics. The terrain is sandy-chalk, which is a natural protection for the vines from phylloxera.

Valter said that this wine was something he always wanted to do and it is also a tribute to his father-in-law, Elvio Cogno, who made a pre-phylloxera Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri” when he was at the Marcarini Winery.IMG_3022

Barbaresco “Bordini” DOCG made from Lampia, a sub-variety of Nebbiolo. The vineyard is at 250 meters and the vine training is vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. The vineyard is in Neive. The harvest takes place at the end of September. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pump over. The post-fermentation maceration is for 20 days with submerged cap.

The wine remains on the lees for 60 days. Ageing is for 12/14 months in large Slovenian oak barrels and it is in bottle six months before release. $43

Valter spoke about the three main clones of Nebbiolo: Lampia, Michet and Rosè. He said that the nurseries in Italy were now producing vines that are a combination of all three, taking the best characteristics if each. They would be mostly Lampia with some Michet and a little Rosè. He also pointed out that because of natural pollenization, this may be happening in his own vineyards.IMG_3026

Barolo Cascina Nuova DOCG 100% Nebbiolo (Lampia & Michet) The vineyard is at 380 meters with a southern exposure. It is the youngest vineyard. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and the vines are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. The harvest takes place in October. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over and a maceration of 30 to 40 days. The wine is aged in 40HL oak barrels for 2 years and in bottle for another 6 months before release.

Valter said that 2009 was one of his favorite vintages because it has a lot of fruit and is more approachable. $43IMG_3024

Barolo “Bricco Pernice” DOCG 2006 100%.  It is made from a sub-variety of Nebbiolo called Lampia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level with 5000 vines per hectare and faces southward. The grapes are from the finest vineyards in Novello, in the most historic part of the Ravera cru. Harvest is in October. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with pumping over and 30 days maceration with submerged cap. It is aged for 24 months in large Slovenian oak barrels 25/30 HL. It remains on the lees for 90 days and spends12 months in bottle before it is released. This is a well-structured and elegant Barolo. 9,000 bottles were produced. $85IMG_3028

Barolo “Vigna Elena” Riserva DOCG 2008. This wine is made from 100% Rosè, a sub-variety of Nebbiolo. Valter said he is one of the few to do a Barolo with 100% Rosè. The vineyards are 380 feet above sea level and face southward. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard is 1 hectare. The harvest is in October and the grapes are fermented in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with automatic pump-over with a post fermentation maceration of 30 days and a submerged cap. The wine is aged for 36 months in 40HL Slovenian oak barrels. Valter said the he only uses native yeasts. The wine is left on the lees for 60 days, and undergoes 12 months bottle aging before it is released. Valter pointed out that this wine is only made in great vintages. He also said that 2008 was an excellent year and it made a very traditional style Barolo. The wine has typical Nebbiolo aromas of roses, tobacco and a hint of liquorice. 5, 000 bottles produced. $90

When it comes to Barbareso and Barolo Valter is a traditionalist. He feels that a long maceration makes the tannins softer and is necessary to make a complex wine with all the necessary aromas and flavors. He will only use botte grande. Barriques extract too much from the wood into the wine and he would not use them for Barolo or Barbaresco.IMG_3025

Barolo “Ravera” DOCG 2000. It is made from the Lampia and Michet, sub varieties of Nebbiolo. The vineyard is 380 feet meter above sea level, with 4,000 vines per hectare and faces southward. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with automatic pump over, maceration for 30 days with submerged cap and on the lees for 90 days. 24 months of aging in 25/30HL Slovenian oak barrels and six months in bottle before it is released. He called Ravera the most important Cru in Novello and went on to say that the mostly calcareous soil (classic blue clay) of this vineyard adds elegance and structure to the wine, making it ideal for aging. 15,000 bottles produced. $N/A I had tasted this wine from the barrel when I visited the winery two years ago. The barrel sample was very Pinot Noir like but now it is pure Nebbiolo.


Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Cogno- Marcarini, Pre-Phylloxera Barbera, Walter Fissore