Monthly Archives: June 2013

Soave for the Week-End

Recently I had lunch with Gary Grunner, a wine importer who is very passionate about Soave, the white wine from the Veneto. We were at SD26 in NYC and Gary brought one of my favorite Soaves from Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve winery to drink with lunch.

Gary said that Gaetano Bertani established Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve in 1991. The property had been owned by the Bertani family since the 1860’s and managed by Gaetano since 1971. Today Giovanni and Gugliemo, his two sons, assist him. Gaetano is the wine maker and the consulting enologist is Franco Bernabei.Immagini 003

Soave “Lepia” 2011 IGT made from 100% Garganega Veronese. The soil is clay with calcareous-marly subsoil. The training system is the pergoletta, and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. The grapes are harvested in September at different times of ripening and crushed separately, with cold pre-fermentation skin contact. The grapes are gently pressed and fermented. The wine is blended in January and racked in stainless steel tanks with the thin lees. Then there is a short bottle refinement. The wine has flavors and aromas of pears and peaches with a hint of almonds and nice minerality. I like this Soave because it reflects the indigenous grape and the terroir. $21IMG_3342

The wine went very well with both the octopus I had as a first course and the sea food ravioli which followed.

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The Wines of Crete

In the Odyssey, Homer (850 BC) writes, “There’s a place in the middle of the wine-dark sea called Crete, a fruitful land surrounded by the sea.”  He adds that Cretan wine was famous all over the known world.

At the Palace of Knossos

At the Palace of Knossos

The cultivation of grapevines in Crete goes back 4,000 years when the island was the center of a great civilization.  When I visited there a few years ago, we went to see the luxurious Palace of Knossos, the oldest architectural monument in Europe.  Afterward, I tasted a number of Cretan wines in the nearby town.  The wines were very interesting and I regretted that we were only there for the day.  Recently I attended a tasting of the wines of Crete in NYC and was glad to have the chance to taste some more of these wines.

Wine Press at a Winery on Crete

Wine Press at a Winery on Crete

Crete is divided into four Prefectures: Heraklion, Rethymno, Chania and Lasithi , 25,000 acres are under cultivation with the PDO vineyards being in Heraklion and Lasithi.

The Wines

Douloufakis WineryIMG_3233

Fermina 2012 made from 100% Malvasia di Candia. This variety known for its aromatic bouquet has returned to favor in the last few years especially in the Prefecture of Heraklion. The vineyards are 100% organic and the vines are at 300 meters. Classic vinification takes place following the skin contact method. This is a very aromatic wine with nice fruit flavors and a touch of sweetness. It finishes dry with good acidity.

Alexakis Winnery

Vidiano 2012, made from 100% Vidiano. This is one of the rarest grape varieties in Greece, grown only in Crete. It grows in large bunches of oval grapes. The soil is chalk and limestone and the vineyards are at 1,600 meters. The wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.IMG_3238

The Mediterra Winery

Xerolithia  2012 a white wine made from 100% Vilana. It is widely cultivated and is the number 1 white Cretan variety. It is best when cultivated in semi-mountainous regions at an altitude of 400 plus meters. Vilana is also used as a blending grape. The vineyards for this wine are at 500 meters on non-irrigated mountainsides. There is argil calcareous pour soil and there is a great difference between night and day temperatures during the winter.

The wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. The name of the wines comes from xerolithia dry stonewalls, that were built to create natural boundaries and as a protection from erosion. It has aromas of citrus fruits and hints of pineapple and mango with good acidity and minerality.IMG_3241

Mirambelo 2010  This red wine is made from the Kotsifali and Mandilaria grapes. These two grapes are the basic raw material for red Cretan wines. Kotsifali has a characteristic bouquet and gives the wine high alcohol. It lacks tannin and pigments so it is combined with Mandilaria, which is rich in both. Mandilari is know as the “painter” (Vafias) to locals. In most wines there is 20% Mandilaria and 80% Kotsifali. The hillside vineyards are at 400 meters and the soil is argil clay with exceptional drainage. The vineyards are over 15 years old. Fermentation at controlled temperatures and maturation for 12 months in new French and American barriques of 225lt and 300lt.

Domaine Paterianakis

E. Paterianakis and the 1999

E. Paterianakis and the 1999

Dry Red Wine 1999. P. D. O. Peza Made from  80% Kotsifali and 20% Mandilari.  The wine is produced from organic farmed grapes without the addition of chemicals or pesticides and using traditional production methods. The winery is located in a semi-mountainous area at about 600 meters. This is a wine with dried fruit aromas and flavors with a touch of prune. It had a very long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. I was very impressed with this wine and I believe it sells for about $25

N. Paterianakis with the Melissokipos

N. Paterianakis with the Melissokipos

Melissokipos 2010 made from Kotsifall and Mandilari. Also produced from organic grown grapes. This was a much lighter style wine with nice red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of strawberries and raspberries.

For more information about these wines, go to

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White Wines from Friuli for $18

Gradis’ciutta was another of the wineries that I tasted at the Friuli tasting held at Felidia Restaurant for the Wine Media Guild on May I, 2013. I have already written about the other two wineries, Bastianich and Scarbolo.

What impressed me about the white wines from Grandis’ciutta is their high quality and reasonable price, all at $18.IMG_3043

Collio Chardonnay 2011 made from 100% Chardonnay. Chardonnay was confused with Bianco Bianco in this region until the 1970’s. The vines are at 400 to 600 meters and the training system is guyot. The juice is obtained from a soft pressing of the grapes macerated for 24 hours. 80% 0f the fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and 20% takes place in new oak barrels.The wine is matured on its lees, then the two lots are blended together and the wine is bottled. There were aromas and flavors of apple and honey with a slight hint of vanilla

Collio Pinot Grigio 2012, 100% Pinot Grigio. This grape variety was first called Ruläander when it came to the Gorizia area in the second half of the 1800’s. The color of the grape tends to be copper. The vineyard is at 325 to 475 feet and the training system is guyot. Soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, aging on the lees until the wine is bottled. The wine had a slight copper color, with flavor hints of peach and ripe apple. There was also an aroma of tomato leaf. It is a very interesting wine.IMG_3046

Friulano Collio DOC, 2011, 100% Tocai Friulano   If you ask for white wine in Friuli this is what they will serve you. The name of the wine was changed from Tocai to Friulano because Hungary has a dessert wine called Tokay and they convinced the EU to make Friuli change the name of their wine  from Tocai to Friulano in 2007. This was done to avoid confusion because the names sounded alike. This in my opinion was not necessary. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by 24 to 48 hour fermentation at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on its lees until it is ready to be bottled.  It has good fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of apple and a touch of almond in the finish and aftertaste.IMG_3045

Ribolla Gialla 2011, 100% Ribolla Gialla. This is the oldest grape variety of Collio. It has been here since Roman times. The vineyards are at 600 feet and the training method is guyot. The soil is sandstone marl and clay marl. The grapes undergo criomaceration for 24 hours and then are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on its lees until bottled. It has nice citrus aromas and flavors with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste.IMG_3044

Collio Bianco “Bratinis”2010  made from Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon Blanc in various percentages. The soil is a mixture of breakable sandstone and clay marl called ponca. The name of the wine comes from the locality where the grapes are grown and harvested. The vines are between 500 and 600 feet and the training system is guyot. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.The wine matures on the lees and is then bottled. At one time the wine was produced in such small amounts that it was only available for the family. It is aromatic with hints of apple and peach and a touch if pineapple. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

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Light Red Wine for Summer

Looking for  an interesting light red wine  to drink this weekend?IMG_3287

Schiava Gentile 2011 from Peter Zemmer, the perfect light  red wine for warm weather drinking.  Made from the Schiava grape (a blend of various varieties of Schiava) this varietal grows on the special vineyards on the valley floor of the southern Lowlands of Alto Adige. $15

After the grapes are picked the stems are immediately removed and the grapes are fermented for 8 days at a constant temperature. The must is kept in regular contact with the skins through circulation pumping and gentle pressure from below. This is done to achieve ideal results with the coloring from the skins and emphasize the fruitiness of the wine.IMG_3290

The wine is light ruby in color; it is light, fresh and easy to drink with a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I had it with pizza with different toppings and it worked very well with all of them.

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Notes on Rome

Notes on Rome

One night we were walking in the Piazza Pasquino when I spotted a chalkboard in front of a restaurant with the specials written in colored chalk. I could not believe my eyes–had I had too much Campari? I returned the next day and there it was written in bold letters:  Chicken Pamagana and Spaghetti with Meatballs. I can just imagine American tourist seeing this chalkboard and saying, “at last, real Italian food just like our favorite Italian restaurant back home.”IMG_3091

F.LLI Ciccazzo Via Della Croce

We went here in the mornings for cappuccino and a ciambella and/or a cornetto. Do not sit outside but stand at the bar like the Romans.  It is much more interesting and a caffe and cornetto costs only 2 Euros.

We did not have to leave for the airport until 9:30 so we stopped in Salumeria Focacci di Focacci, Via della Croce 43. And ordered two rosetta rolls filled with prosciutto di Parma to eat on the plane. The cost was only 3.94 Euros — a real bargain.

We like to go Café Ciampini in Pizza S. L. in Lucina, 29.

For cappuccino, gelato or a Campari and soda depending on the time of day. It is always interesting to sit outside in this  busy piazza.


The Margutta

This Caffè is close to the parliament buildings, so politicians go there as well as the local police and the Carabinieri.  The piazza is very charming. Sitting outside on a weekday morning there can be a lot of noise and confusion from delivery trucks.

Timbale of Zucchine

Timbale of Zucchine

  The interior is very nice and it is not only a caffè/bar but also a restaurant with come interesting items. I really like their Margutta salad and had it both times I went there.  In addition to the salad greens, there were fruits, nuts and cheese.   Michele had the Timbale of Zucchine the first time and the Pizza Romana the second time. The pastry is also very good. The original Caffè is in Naples so they have a Neapolitan accent.  Michele just had to order the sfogliatella.  IMG_3083

The hotel Raphael and the Grand Hotel Minerva have roof top gardens where we often stopped for drinks. The drinks are expensive but the views are spectacular.

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Must Read Article by Eric Asimov of the New York Times

We pay critical attention to the sorts of food we eat. Why aren’t we just as careful with the wines we drink?
12:43 PM – 31 May 13
The Big Question: What’s in Wine?
By Eric Asimov

Wineries aren’t required to list ingredients. Don’t consumers deserve that information?

If Only the Grapes Were the Whole Story

At RAW, a fair in London that brings together producers of artisanal and natural wines with others in the trade and the public.

Wine has been described as the perfect beverage because the grapes contain all the ingredients necessary to create their transformation. Put grapes in a vat, and over time the yeasts coating the skins set alchemy in motion, converting the sugar in the juice into alcohol.
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RAW 2013
The producers who take part in RAW are required to list any additives and processing techniques they have used in their wines.
It was just this sort of unbidden fermentation that inspired humans so long ago to spend the next few millenniums improving their methods of winemaking.

A few wines are still made in this way, or at least in approximation, with no other ingredients except the possible addition of sulfur dioxide, which has been used for eons as a stabilizer and preservative. Yet it’s no secret that many wines (most, in fact) include a lot more than grapes, yeast and sulfur. The list in some cases can be staggering.

Forget about the often poisonous chemicals used in the vineyards, which can leave residue on the grapes. In the winery alone, before fermentation even begins, enzymes may be added to speed up the removal of solid particles from the juice, to amplify desirable aromas while eliminating disagreeable ones, to intensify the color of red wines and to clarify the color of whites.

It doesn’t stop there. Other additives can be used to enhance a wine’s texture, to add or subtract tannins or simply to adjust quality. Winemakers can select specific yeasts and special nutrients to keep those yeasts working. They can add oak extracts for flavor and further tannin adjustment, and compounds derived from grape juice to fix color, texture and body. They can add sugar to lengthen the fermentation, increasing the alcohol content; add acid if it’s lacking; add water if the alcohol level is too high. Or they can send the wine through a reverse-osmosis machine or other heavy equipment to diminish the alcohol and eliminate other undesirable traits, like volatile acidity.

For all of its natural, pastoral connotations, wine can very much be a manufactured product, processed to achieve a preconceived notion of how it should feel, smell and taste, and then rolled off the assembly line, year after year, as consistent and denatured as a potato chip or fast-food burger.

Yet we pay little attention to wine’s added ingredients, even as we have become hyper-conscious about what we eat. Twenty years ago, many Americans may have enjoyed food indiscriminately, but now they weigh the nutritional, environmental, humanitarian, aesthetic and even political consequences of what they cook and consume. Isn’t it time to devote the same careful attention to the wine we drink?

It’s no simple task. Unlike processed foods, wine is not required to have its ingredients listed on the label. This contributes to the belief that any wine is elemental, like fruits, vegetables and meats, and can’t be broken down into constituent parts. That’s far from the truth.

“It is very surprising how many discerning foodies will drink mass-produced, highly processed wines without batting an eyelid,” Isabelle Legeron, an educator and consultant who holds the rare title master of wine, wrote in an e-mail. “They just haven’t engaged with wine in the same way, yet.”

For the last two years, Ms. Legeron has held RAW, a fair in London that brings together producers of artisanal and natural wines with others in the trade and the public. All producers who take part are required to list any additives and processing techniques they have used.

“With RAW, we are really trying to raise awareness about transparency,” she said. “We want to prompt people to ask questions.”

The first question might be: Why are wineries so reluctant to document what goes into their wines? Ingredient labeling is voluntary, and very few wineries have stepped up. Bonny Doon Vineyard, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Ridge Vineyards deserve applause as notable exceptions.

Many wineries try to explain away their reluctance by arguing that consumers will be confused by long lists of ingredients, or even a short list of traditional but unexpected substances that have been used in winemaking for centuries. For example, artisanal producers who disdain adding enzymes may still try to clarify their wines with egg whites or isinglass, which is derived from fish bladders. Certainly vegans might want to know that information.

The fact is, some consumers make conscious decisions not to buy products when they see what goes into making them. I don’t want added sweeteners pervading the groceries I buy, for example. I love peanut butter, but won’t buy it if it contains anything more than peanuts and salt. Don’t all consumers deserve the same opportunity to make informed, considered judgments about wine?

At the same time, other consumers — the vast majority — continue to buy processed foods regardless of mysterious ingredients. They are motivated by cost, convenience and sensory gratification, or maybe they just don’t care. No doubt the same will be true with wine.

It’s not apparent whether additives in wine pose public-health risks. Nonetheless, if we want foods that are minimally processed, authentic expressions of what they purport to be (like cheese rather than processed cheese), then we want to be able to distinguish between wines that are relatively unmanipulated and those that are industrial products.

Most wineries have no interest in full disclosure. Just as with food manufacturers, they will have to be dragged into some form of honest representation of their product. Sadly, the responsibility is left largely to consumers to monitor what they buy and drink.

As a first step, it helps to think of wine as food. Concerns about where food comes from and how it’s grown, processed or raised ought to be extended to wine. If we ourselves don’t set standards for quality and authenticity, who will?


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Rome in the spring is magical.  It is my favorite time to be there. Michele and I were spending a week in Sorrento and what better way to begin and end our travels than in Rome.



The days were becoming warmer and longer and just walking around the city and taking in the sites was a pleasure. Looking at the official seal of Rome, SPQR meaning ‘The Senate and the People of Rome,’  always reminds me that Rome was once the most important city in the world.  We sat in the outdoor cafes on sunny mornings enjoying cappuccino and cornetti and watching the world go by. At night we would stop for a Campari and soda or a Negroni at one of the roof garden bars watching the setting sun.  But as I have said before, I love the food in Rome and the highlights of the day for me are lunch and dinner.

Here are some favorite restaurants we went to on this trip. Some we have only been to a few times, others we have been going to for over 30 years.



The first time I went to Il Matriciano ( 39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55, was in 1981 and have been going back whenever I was in Rome, until two years ago.  On that trip, we sat outside and were disappointed in the service and the food.  The waiter wanted to serve us the antipasto, which included a slice of pizza, but I just wanted zucchini flowers.  He seemed to think he knew more than I about what I wanted and kept on suggesting dishes that were of no interest to me.  The menu has barely changed over the years and I always order the same things when I eat there.  It annoyed me and the experience was just not the same

We decided this year to give the restaurant another chance. On our way there, Michele said, “Let’s ask to sit inside because that is where all the Romans are.” When we arrived the owner offered us a table outside but we insisted on inside.  After moving a few tables around, we were seated. The restaurant filled up very quickly and Romans sat at every table inside.

Fragoline and Gelato

Fragoline and Gelato

Our waiter was very good considering it was a busy Sunday afternoon.  He only spoke to us in Italian which we preferred.  As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) to start. These were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella filling and more than a hint of anchovies.  I ordered the bucatini all’Amatriciana.  Along with one or two others, this is one of the classic Roman pastas. Some places serve it with rigatoni but it is not the same. Then I had abbacchio (baby lamb) roasted with potatoes. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin. For dessert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato. Michele loves fragoline and orders them every chance she gets.IMG_3159

The Barbera “Latina” 2007 from Cascina Castlet went very well with the pasta and the baby lamb. The restaurant had returned to form and produced the perfect traditional Roman meal. I was very happy.



Last year we went to restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Salita de Crescenzi, 3906 68880 3034, for the first time and liked it so much that we decided to go again this year.  Michele made a reservation on line and when we arrived in Rome we confirmed the reservation just to make sure. This is also a traditional Roman restaurant. We ordered crostini with truffles and quail egg, bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled lamb. Once again we had the fragoline with gelato for dessert.  Michele really likes the food here.IMG_3084

 The wine was the 2009 Montepulciano D’Abruzza, from Emidio Pepe.  At less than 40 euro, it was a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I expected. I should have asked them to decant the wine. Most of my experience with this wine has been with vintages that are 25 years and older.



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 it has the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome. It can also be very creative with items like the hamburger di bufala with grilled ham and a balsamic drizzle, and the burrata e alici. This time we both ordered the carbonara. Michele is right, it was terrific.IMG_3076

 The wine was the 2008 Cerasuolo (Rosè) 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro.

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. It was a chilly and cloudy afternoon in Rome as we made our way to the restaurant. We sat   inside in one of the small rooms that look onto the street.  I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci. The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. Michele had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Palatium- Enoteca Regionale Via Fattina 94   39-06-6920 2132. This is a restaurant run by the region of Lazio. All of the food is typical of the region. The wine is only from the region and a real bargain as most of them are between 10 and 14 euros. There is a very large selection. The restaurant was a few doors down from our hotel on the Via Frattina and as luck would have it we went there on the night that it rained. I had cacio e pepe which is a typical Roman dish and Michele had mozzarella in carrozza, a very large toasted sandwich.IMG_3197

We drank a bottle of Lazio I.G.P “Colle DE” Poggeri”  2011 from Cantina Stefanoni 100% Roscetto (Trebbiano Giallo). The harvest took place from 10 to 15 of October. Fermentation is on the skins for about 12 hours. The must fermentation is in wooden barrels for about two months. The color was yellow with golden reflections and the wine looked like it might have oxidized. This was not the case; it was fresh, soft and well balanced with good fruit aromas and flavors.  It is a bargain at 10 euros.


Filed under Da Giggetto, Emidio Pepe, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Palatium-Entoca Regionale, Restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Restaurants Rome, Roman Restaurants, Roscetto, Roscioli, Valentini