Monthly Archives: September 2013

Caprili: Traditional Brunello at its Best

As co-chair of the Wine Media Guild I go to Felidia Restaurant often because we hold our monthly lunches and tastings there. This time however I was invited by the Wine Director of the restaurant, Giuseppe Rosati, for a tasting and lunch featuring the wines of the Carpili winery in Montalcino in Tuscany. The speaker was  Giacomo Bartolommei   a member of the family that owns the winery and the sales manager.

Giacomo Bartolommei

Giacomo Bartolommei

Giacomo told us a little of the history of the winery that was established in 1965 and their philosophy of making wine.  The Carpili estate is located in the southwest part of the municipality of Montalcino.  Because of this location and the clones that they first planted in1965, the vines show great resistance to heat and disease. They only use grapes from their own vineyards and the only treatments used are copper or sulphur based. The natural yeasts, found on the grapes themselves, is favored. Terroir is very important and the use of natural yeasts contributes to a more precise territorial identity. Vinification follows a natural process avoiding the addition of yeast and other exogenous correctors. The Rosso and the Brunello are all aged in large 22 to 63 HL Slovenian oak barrels.IMG_3887

After 15 years of age the vines that make the Rosso can be used for Brunello.  In response to a question about vintages, Giacomo said that 08,06,04,01, 99,95 90,88 and 85 were all great vintages for his wines. Of the vintages that we tasted I believe his favorite was the 2004.

The wines were paired with dishes prepare by the executive chef of Felidia restaurant, Fortunato Nicotra, and each was a perfect match.IMG_3840

Rosso di Montalcino 2011 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The grapes come from the Testucchiaia vineyard, which was planted in 2001. The vineyard is at 335 meters, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is runner and guyot. Vilification is with natural yeasts, followed by maceration for about 25 days, with automatic temperature checks. The wine is aged in large Slavonia oak barrels (botti) for a short period of time and in bottle before release. $28. This was served with a rabbit and vegetable terrine with Castelluccio lentils.IMG_3841

Brunello Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 100% Sangiovese Grosso from 4 different vineyards that are between 15 and 25 years of age. The training system is the runner. The wine is aged for at least 3 years is Slavonia oak barrels and a minimum of 4 months in bottle before release.


The Risotto

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 same vinification as the above wine. $60

The two Brunellos were paired creamy risotto with mushrooms, hazelnuts and black truffle pesto.

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 Riserva 100% Sangiovese Grosso from two different vineyards.  The vines are 25 to 40 years old. The training system is runner and guyot.$75

The wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for at least 4 years and in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This wine was served with steak tagliata, summer beans, corn and red quinoa.

The Steak

The Steak

The chef explained that he cooked the  steak   in three separate steps to preserve the juices. This was perfection! When in Tuscany do what the Tuscans do – drink Sangiovese with steak- the perfect combination.

Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Riserva same as aboveIMG_3844

Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Riserva same as above.

The last two wines were served with an assortment of Tuscan cheeses.

All of the wines had very nice fruit with a characteristic hint of cherry. These are traditional, classic, wines that need time to develop. The 2004 Riserva still needs more time but the 2001 Riserva was just starting to come around.


Filed under Brunello, Caprili Winery, Felidia Restaurant NYC, Giacomo Bartolommei, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Montalcino

Capezzana Carmignano: A Wine for the “Ages”

I have been drinking the Carmignano from Tenuta di Capezzana for over 35 years and it has always been of one my favorite wines.  The first time I understood the wine and how well it aged was when the late Count Ugo Bonacossi and his wife Contessa Lisa, the owners of the winery, came to dinner at my home. The year was 1985 and the Count brought a bottle of 1925 “Carmignano” which was labeled Chianti Montalbano.  The reason for the label was that Carmignano D.O.C. was not recognized until 1975, thanks to the efforts of count Ugo, retroactive to 1969.

The 1925 was wonderful and showed almost no signs of age. Since that dinner, I have had a number of older bottles of the Carmignano here and some at the winery and enjoyed them all.

Beatrice Bonacossi

Beatrice Bonacossi

Recently, Beatrice Buonacossi, the daughter of the Count was in NYC and invited me to a tasting and lunch of wines going back to 1968. I have known Beatrice for a number of years now and she is one of my favorite people in the wine business.  I told Beatrice about the 1925 Carmignano and she said that they had opened a bottle recently and it was still in great condition!

Before we tasted the wines Beatrice spoke about the winery today.  She said that it was a family affair and four of the seven children of the Count run the estate.  She said that Capezzana is situated in northern Tuscany, near the town of Carmignano, 20km from Florence on the slopes of Montalbano close to the Apennine Mountains, and that the winery accounts for over 50% of all the Carmignano produced.

She also said that the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon to make Carmignano dates to the 16th century and the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon coincides with the marriage of Catherine de Medici to the King of France. The Medici used the area as their personal hunting grounds. Since that time Carmignano has been a blend of Sangiovese and a dash of Cabernet.  The winery uses sustainable practices, pending organic certification in 2015.

We began with a tasting of Carmignano from 2008 to 1968.  IMG_3817

Villa Di Capezzana Carmignano  D.O.C.G 2008 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines have a South-South West Exposure. Soil type and harvest are the same as is the vinification except that the malolactic fermentation is in French oak. The wine is aged in barriques and tonneaux for 15 months and at least 10 months in bottle before release. $30IMG_3812

With the 1997 vintage I believe they did away with the Riserva label, the use of Canaiolo, and botti. Barriques and tonneaux were introduced and the oak was now French -Allier.

Villa Capezzana Carmignano 1998 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged for 12 months in 350-liter tonneaux and another 16 months in bottle before release.  $150

With the 1997 vintage I believe they did away with the Riserva label, the use of Canaiolo, and big Slovenian oak barrels called botti. Barriques and tonneaux were introduced and the oak was now French -Allier

Villa Capezzana Riserva Carmignano 1988 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 5% complimentary grapes. The wine was aged in for 24 months in botti of 23 hectoliters made from Slovenian oak and 12 months in bottle before release.$280IMG_3804

Villa Capezzana Riserva Carmignano 1977  65% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Canaiolo and 10%  complimentary grapes. Vinification, same as above.

Villa Capezzano Riserva Carmignano 1968 65% Sangiovese 10% Cabernet Sauvignon,15% Canaiolo and 10% complimentary grapes.  Aged 24 months in botti of 25 hectoliters of Slovenian oak and 24 months in bottle before release. $350

All the wines were showing very well, I saved some of the older wines to have with lunch.IMG_3808

They also make a wonderful extra virgin olive oil $55 and there is a cooking school on the property which was founded by Contessa Lisa.

More on the lunch and the other Capezzana wines another time.


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Filed under Capezzana, Carmignano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine

Fiorano: A visit to Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi

Alessia Fiorano Rosso Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi.

On a June day in Rome last year, the temperature was over 100 degrees as we waited outside the city records hall for Alessia Antinori to pick us up and take us to her winery. Not one of her father, Piero Antinori’s wineries, but to the winery of the late Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa, her grandfather.  I was finally going to see where Fiorano, my favorite red wine, was made.

When the Principe died a few years ago, he left half of the estate to his daughter, who is Piero Antinori’s wife and mother of Alessia.  She then gave her share of the estate to her three daughters.  Alessia lives in Rome and since the winery is only twenty minutes away, just across from the Ciampino Airport, Alessia took over the management of the estate.

The other half of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate was left to a distant cousin of the Principe who has released a 2006 Fiorano Rosso with the original Fiorano label under his own name, Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi. He also made a white Fiorano, but is using different grapes than the original.  Alessia said that she hoped they could come to some agreement about the label without going to court.

Restored Tank

Restored Tank

As we were driving to the winery Alessia told us that she was making a number of improvements since her part of the winery was in disrepair. It fact there was not much left and Alessia has undertaken a major restoration.IMG_1915

I asked her about the vines and she said that the people who had worked for her grandfather told her that he ordered them covered with dirt but then a few years later ordered them to be uncovered. In an interview with the late Italian wine writer Luigi Veronelli, Alessias Grandfather said that he would destroy all the vines so that his son-in-law would not get them because Piero did not make wine the way he did. I guess he changed his mind.IMG_1914

Alessia said that her first vintage was going to come from the vines that were uncovered.  Later, when new vineyards are planted, there will be a massal selection of old vines.  She said that the winery was almost ready for its first harvest.  Alessia said that she and her sisters hope to continue the legacy of their grandfather and of the Estate.  This is very good news.

The 1985

The 1985

Despite the very hot day, when Alessia offered to open a bottle of the 1988 Fiorano Rosso, I could not refuse the offer. As I sipped the wine I did not think about the heat only of the well-structured, elegant and smooth wine with aromas of cherry and leather, the long finish and the wonderful lingering aftertaste. This is a great wine!

The 1995

The 1995

A few months later Alessia was in New York and came to dinner at my apartment along with her husband. She brought with her a bottle of the 1995 Fiorano Bianco and a bottle of a 2010 red, which she had made. She said that this wine will be the second wine of the Tenuta di Fiorano and a label and name had not yet been chosen.IMG_2255

 In Rome I had bought a bottle of the 2006 Firoano Rosso made by the new Principe to compare.  It was an easy-drinking wine in a modern style and did not bear any resemblance to the original Fiorano Rosso.  Alessia’s wine was a much bigger, more complex wine with good fruit, but since it was a 2010 it was difficult to judge and needs time to develop.IMG_2254

I also opened a 1994 Fiorano Rosso (made by the grandfather) and it needed at least 10 more years to be ready to drink.   I believe Alessia said that the last vintage made by her grandfather was 1995.

Next time:  the story continues with a visit to the winery in May of 2013 and the improvements Alessia has made.


Filed under Alessia Antinori, Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Vernosa, Fiorano Bianco, Fiorano Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Dinner with Inspector Montalbano

I am a big fan of Andrea Camileri’s books featuring Inspector Montalbano. The stories are set in southeastern Sicily in a town with a made-up name, but it sounds a lot like Agrigento. This is of interest to me because my father’s family comes from this area.  ???????????????????????????????

Montalbano, like most Sicilians, spends a lot of time thinking, talking about and eating food.  Especially seafood.  Wine and food writers Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca are also loyal fans of the Inspector Montalbano books as well as the made-in-Italy television series on the same subject which is available here on dvd.   Diane and Tom invited Michele and I to a dinner at their home featuring recipes from a cookbook, The Secrets of Montalbano’s Table (I Segreti della Tavola di Montalbano), written by Andrea Camilieri.  Tom paired the dishes with wines from Mt. Etna in Sicily–mostly.IMG_3778

Etna Bianco Biancodicaselle 2010 DOC Benanti made from 100% Carricante, vines grown as freestanding bushes-alberello. This indigenous vine is cultivated only on Mt. Etna. The vines are 35 to 50 years old and at 800 to 1,000 meters. The area of production is the countryside of Caselle on the eastern slope of Etna in the commune of Milo and the countryside of Cavaliere on the southern side of the mountain, in the commune of Santa Maria di Licodia. The soil is sandy, volcanic, and rich in minerals, with subacid reaction. The consulting enologist is Michele Bean.

The grapes are late ripening and are picked in the third week of October; they are intact and softly pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel vats. The wine matures for a certain period of time in tanks before being bottled. After two months in bottle the wine is released. The color is pale yellow with greenish hints; it is aromatic, fruity with hints of apple, and nice acidity.



This was paired with Alici con Cipolle e Aceto, fresh anchovies marinated in white wine and vinegar with sweet cipollini onions.  I love alici and it was a great.

Etna Bianco Outis (Nessuno) 20o9 DOC  Vini Bondi the wine maker is Salvo Foti, who is very respected in the Etna area and has worked for Benanti and Gulfi.

The wine is 90% Carricante, 2.5% Cataratto, 2.5% Minnella,2.5% Malvasia and 2.5% Muscatella dell’Etna. The grapes come from four different vineyards. The vines are 60 to 70 years old and are bush trained (alberello). Salvo Foti has said that the alberello method is the best for growing grapes under the climatic conditions on Etna which are more like Northern Italy and very windy.  There are 6,000 to 8,000 plants per hectare. Organic farming methods are used and the grapes are hand picked. Fermentation and aging takes place in stainless steel tanks. This is a wine with cirtus fruit flavors, good minerality and acidity with a nice finish and pleasing after taste.IMG_3781

The name of the wine comes from the story of the Cyclops in The Odyssey by Homer.  Odysseus and his men are captives in the cave of the man eating Cyclops.  Odysseus offers the Cyclops, Polyphemus, some strong and undiluted wine in order to get him drunk. Polyphemus then asks Odysseus his name. Odysseus tells him “Οὖτις“, which means “no one” and the Cyclops promises to eat this “Nobody” last of all. With that, he falls into a drunken sleep. Odysseus had meanwhile hardened a wooden stake in the fire and drives it into Polyphemus’ single eye. When Polyphemus shouts for help from his fellow giants, saying that “Nobody” has hurt him, they think Polyphemus, it is very funny and go away laughing.



This was paired with another one of my favorites –  Sautè di Vongole al Pangrattato — tiny clams steamed in wine then baked with breadcrumbs.



We finished the white wine with Pasta con Sarde,IMG_3787

Etna Rosso Rossodiverzella DOC 2009 Bernati.  Made from 80% Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio.   The area of production is on the northern side of Etna in the commune of Castiglione di Sicilia. There is a lot of rain and high humidity with great temperature changes throughout the day. The soil is sandy, volcanic, rich in minerals with subacid reaction. There are 8,000 vines per hectare and the vine training used is the alberello. The harvest takes place the second week of October. There is traditional vinification and after malolactic fermentation the wine is aged is small casks- 225 liters-for 8 to 10 months. The wine remains in bottle for several months before release. This wine had red fruit flavors and aromas and a hint of vanilla that was not necessary.IMG_3792

Taurasi Riservia 1985  Mastroberardino 100% Aglianico(Campania) Harvest takes place from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release.  This is full, complex wine with hints of plum, spice, coffee and a touch of leather. This is a great wine and I am very happy that when Tom did a non-Sicilian wine it was this one. Montalbano would have approved.



The two red wines were paired with Brusciuluni, a flattened piece of beef stuffed with cheese and salame, then rolled and tied like a roast.  It was topped with a flavorful tomato sauce.

For more on the food see Diane Darrow

For a slightly different view on the wine see Tom Maresca


Filed under Andrea Camilleri, Benanti, Biancodicaselle, Inspector Montalbano, Mastroberardino, Outis-Etna Bianco, Rossodiverzella, Taurasi

Damilano Barolo-A Return to Tradition


Damilano Barolo is a wine that I have known for a number of years. In fact, I have a magnum of the 2000 vintage. The producer’s wines always seemed to lean a little to the “modern side” but never went over to the “dark side.” I was invited to a tasting of four Barolo’s form the winery and looked forward to going because I had heard that there were some changes taking place.

The speaker was Beppe Caviola, winemaker for Damilano. He has been at Damilano for 15 years and consults for other wineries in the area. The same family has owned the winery since 1890.

Beppe Caviola

Beppe Caviola

Beppe caught my attention right away when he said that for the Barolo 2008 vintage, he was returning to the more traditional methods. Longer maceration and large wooden barrels (botti) made from Salvonian oak are now being used.  Terroir is very important he said and one should not only be able to tell that the wine is Barolo but also which area it comes from, for example, La Morra or Castiglione Falletto. The use of new barriques covers the wine’s characteristics and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to tell where the wine comes from. He felt that many producers in Barolo were now going back and respecting tradition and getting away from the oaky, over concentrated wines of a few years ago.  He said that 2008 was a great vintage for Barolo.IMG_3761

Barolo “ Lecinquevigne” 2008 the name means the five vineyards.  100% Nebbiolo. This is their basic Barolo. The grapes come from the municipalities of Barolo, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra and Novello. The vines are 30 to 50 years old and the soil is calcareous-clay. 20% of the wine is aged in used barriques for 24 months and 80% in large wooden barrels.  The wine has flavors and aromas of red fruit, a touch of violet and a hint of tobacco.IMG_3760

Barolo “Liste” 2008. 100% Nebbiolo, the single vineyard Liste is in the municipality of Barolo. The vines are more then 35 years old, the exposure is east and the soil is calcareous-clay. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks for 20 days. Ageing for 24 months in tonneaux- 40% new and 60% second and third passage. There are aromas and flavors of blackberries, with hints of tobacco and licorice.IMG_3758

Barolo Brunate 2006. 100% Nebbiolo, the single vineyard Brunate is in the municipality of La Morra. The vines are 30 years old and the exposure is south-southeast. The soil is calcareous-clay with a good percentage of sand. Fermentation in temperature controlled tanks.  Aging is the same as above. This wine was almost ready to drink it had hints of red berries, tobacco and cinnamon.


Barolo “Cannubi” 2008 100% Nebbiolo, the single vineyard Cannubi is in the municipality of Barolo. The vines are 30 to 50 years old with a south-southeast exposure. The vineyard is at 280 meters. Beppe explained that Cannubi is a long hill that rises above the town of Barolo and extends northeast for the better part of a mile. Geologically it is unique among the terroirs of Barolo. Cannubi is at the intersection of two stratas, the blue gray Tortonian marl and the buff colored Helvetian sandstone. Beppe said the Cannubi is the best vineyard in the production area because of this particular soil composition. The soil is 45% sand, 35% silt and 20% clay. This presence of a high percentage of fine sand, clay and some limestone give Cannubi its unique characteristics of finesse and elegance. Temperature-controlled fermentation for 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels 30 to 50 HL. This an elegant Barolo with hints of cherry, plum, tobacco, licorice, leather, a touch of white truffles, a long finish and a very pleasant aftertaste.  Beppe was very proud of this wine and rightfully so. $85

I was very impressed with all the wines.  There were no false notes; they all expressed the true characteristics of the Nebbiolo grape.

Beppe also said I should drink my magnum of the 2000 very soon!


Filed under Barolo, Cannubi vineyard, Domilano Winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine