Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Good Amarone at a Very Affordable Price

When the weather starts to get cold and it is the Holiday Season I like to drink Amarone, it always seems to warm me up and make me feel good. I had Amarone for Thanksgiving with Turkey and look forward to drinking more of it in the coming months. Amarone can be expensive so when a friend Michael Romano of Romano Brands   sent me this one and said it retails for between 25 and 30 dollars, I had to try it ,I did and I liked it.

Amarone della Valpolicella 2009 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 10 Molinara. MontezovoIMG_4396

The soil is deep clay and the vineyard is at 400 meters.  Harvest begins the first week of October. The grapes are pressed and fermentation is in vats and the maceration lasts for 30 days. The grapes are dried for five months on bamboo racks in rooms with good airflow and they loss 30% to 40% of their weight and almost become raisin like. This increases the sugar and acid concentration. The wine is aged in oak casks for 3 to 4 years depending on the vintage. This is an elegant wine with hints of mature plums, dried cherries and raisins with bitter almond on the long finish.

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Wine and White Truffles at SD26 in NYC

This is the holiday season but it is also the season for white truffles. As the weather turns colder one can dream of Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo and il tartufo bianco of Alba on pasta, risotto and eggs. Sometimes the dream becomes a reality.  On Tuesday afternoon, a friend called and asked if I was free Thursday night.  When I said yes,  he invited me to join him and two friends for the white truffle gala dinner at SD26 in NYC.  Of course I accepted!

Beni di Batasiolo, a wine producer from Piedmont whose wines I know and like would supply the wines.  It promised to be a very memorable evening.


Tony May Presenting Our Truffle

The main dining room was filled to capacity.  Tony May and his daughter Marisa May, the restaurant owners, graciously welcomed the guests.

The hors d’oeuvres were served at the table and included robiola cheese and mushrooms on toast, crostini with cured lard and anchovy (a favorite), and tartra Piemontese with crispy sage and paddlefish caviar on olive oil potato purèeIMG_4361

The wine was the Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Granee” DOCG 2012 100% Cortese. 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 which made it go very well with all the hors d’oeuvres.

Our Truffle

Our Truffle

Each table of diners received a very large white truffle placed on the table with a truffle cutter. The truffle was ours to grate on the next three courses.  Tony May spoke about the truffles and showed us how to grate it.  Every one covered their dishes with the truffle, but it was so big that there was some left over and each of us took some home. Michele made pasta with the truffle the next evening.

Beef Crudo

Beef Crudo

The first course was Fassone beef crudo with fresh porcini and olio extra virgine novello served with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2011 “Bricco di Vergne,” 100% Dolcetto. The vineyard is located between the towns of La Morra and Barolo, on very steep slopes facing southwest at 480 meters. The soil has layers of sand and sandstone, which lightens the structure of the mainly marly soil. Grapes are harvested by hand around the last week in September. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place with maceration on the skins between 8 to 10 days. This is an elegant, well balanced fruity wine with a lot of red fruit and a hint of cherries that worked very well with this dish.

Truffles and an Egg

Truffles and an Egg

The menu said Sunchokes and Potato Gratin with young Fontina and chives, but what arrived was toast with melted Fontina topped with a poached egg.  The warmth of the egg brought out the aroma of the truffles we shaved on top.  It was wonderful–I just love truffles and eggs.

 We had this with the Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” 2011, 100% Barbera. The vineyards are in Barolo and La Morra at 400/450 meters, facing south and southwest in the area that is usually reserved for Nebbiolo.IMG_4363

It is calcareous soil rich in potassium and the vines are 55 years old. The excellent position and the age of the vines along with the soil makes it a Barbera with unique qualities that can age. The harvest took place on Oct 2nd. Alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins is in stainless steel tanks for 10/12 days. In the spring the wine is transferred into oak barrels (second passage) where it matures for 12/15 months. After careful sampling the wine is assembled into the final product. The wine remains in bottle for 8/10 months before release.  This is a Barbera with good structure, tannin, fruit and acidity and it will age.

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

The next course was the Toma Piemontese filled ravioli del plin, with toasted hazelnuts and sage, a classic  Piemontese dish.  This was a perfect combination with the Barbaresco DOCG 20010 made from 100% Nebbiolo. The area of production is the semi-circle of hills surrounding the three ancient villages of Barbaresco, Nieve and Treiso and part of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a tiny village overlooking the Tanaro River. Harvesting takes place from Oct 10 to 20.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place along with long maceration on the skins in stainless steel. The wine is aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. This is a very traditional Barbaresco and it was perfect with this dish.IMG_4364

Last but not least there was pan-seared saddle of venison, barbera wine infused pear, and foie gras. Two Barolo’s were served with this dish.  The Barolo DOCG “Vigneto Boscareto” 2003 made from 100% Nebbiolo in its subvarities: Michet, Lampia and Rosè from the village of Serralunga. The soil is marl composed of limestone and clay, intermingled with sand. The terrain is hilly and the vineyard faces south/southwest at 300 to 400 meters. There are 3,700 vines per hectare and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The training system is classic guyot modified with arch canes. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in October. There is traditional red wine fermentation with maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. After fermentation the wine is aged in traditional oak casks for at least two years and one year in bottle before release. 2003 was a very hot vintage but this wine was showing well. There were hints of ripe fruit, plums, spice, figs and tea.IMG_4366

Barolo “ Corda della Briccolina” 1996 100% Nebbiolo from the three sub varieties. The vineyard is facing southwest which in this area it is called a vigneto di mezzogiorno. The soil is calcareous marl rich in limestone and calcium carbonate. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place followed by 15 days of maceration then a decanting process. The wine is aged for at least two years in barriques and one year in bottle before release. 1996 was an excellent vintage for Barolo. This wine has aromas and flavors of red berries with hints of cedar, spice, licorice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_4367

For dessert there was a “Domori” Dark Chocolate Tortino and white truffle gelato. Moscato D’Asti “Bosc D’la Rei” 2012, made from100% Moscato Bianco accompanied the dessert. The grapes are grown in soil that is marly and calcareous and the terrain is hilly. The exposure is northwest, there are 3,500 plants per hectare and the vineyard is at 380 to 410 meters. Average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is guyot modified into small arches. Harvesting is by hand the last week of September. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place and the juice is cooled to 0°C. and stored in refrigerated vats. Fermentation (partially fermented with abundant residual sugar) begins a month before bottling. It is a very slow process and the alcohol reaches 5.5% by volume. This is an elegant aromatic dessert wine with hints of overripe fruit.

The Executive Chef at SD26 is Matteo Bergamini

The event and dinner exceeded my every expectation!

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Beni di Batasiolo, Dolcetto, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, SD 26, SD26, Tony May, Truffles

Amarone and Turkey for Thanksgiving

Often I am asked which wine I drink with Thanksgiving dinner when I have turkey and all the trimmings. There are, of course, many different choices that can work very well but if I had to chose one it would be Amarone.
Amarone can be expensive but it has warm aromas and flavors that make it perfect for the colder weather and all the different dishes that accompany the turkey.
Here is one Amarone that I like a lot.  You can see by how it is made why it would work for Thanksgiving.IMG_4278Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2007 Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve made from 75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. The training system is the pergoletta and there are 5,600 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in wooden trays inside rooms with well-circulated air for 4/5 months. In the middle of January after reaching their desired sugar content and losing 25%/30% of their weight, the almost raisin-like grapes are pressed and fermented for 25/30 days at controlled temperatures with daily pumping over.  After a period of decantation and refining in French barriques and Italian oak tonneaux malolactic fermentation takes place.  After 48 months the wine is bottled and remains for 6 months before release. It is a complex and elegant wine with hints of dried cherries, prunes and spice. The finish is very long and there is a lingering aftertaste. $75

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Filed under Amarone, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve

Meeting a Facebook Friend who Owns a Winery in Piedmont

 Massimo Pastura is a friend that I met through Facebook. I am always interested in his postings since he is the owner of Cassina La Ghersa in Piedmont. Recently Massimo contacted me and said that he was going to be in NYC and could we meet for lunch. He asked if he could bring some of his wine for me to taste. Since I knew of his winery, but had never tasted the wine, I was looking forward to our meeting.

Massimo Pastura

Massimo Pastura

Over lunch Massimo said that the winery is family owned and managed and he is the fourth generation. The winery is located in the hills between Nizza Monferrato and Moasca. His winery uses only the traditional grape varieties  the area and they are very proud of the different styles of Barbera that they produce. Massimo made it clear that they do sustainable farming– no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.

The WinesIMG_4304

Gavi “Il Poggio” 2011 made from 100% Cortese. The grapes are estate grown. The vineyard is between the towns of Gavi and Novi Liqure. The training of the vines is vertical trellis and simple guyot and grass is grown between the rows.  There are 4,500 vines/hectares and the soil is calcareous, limestone with a lot of stones. The vines are over 60 years old and they face southwest at 350 meters. Grapes are hand harvested in September. The grapes are crushed and soft-pressed after 12 hours of cryomaceration (holding the crushed grapes and the skins at extremely low temperatures before fermentation.) Static decanting of the must takes place for 12 hours before starting the fermentation with special selected yeasts inoculated in the must. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a period of 10/12 days depending on the vintage. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 6 months.  Weekly vigorous stirring of the wine takes place in order to keep the lees in suspension and assure an adequate balance. After 2 months in bottle the wine is released. The wine has aromas and flavors of peach, tropical fruit, a touch of lime, nice minerality and good acidity. $20IMG_4305

Colli Tortonesi Timorasso DOC Bianco “Sivoy” (meaning slide or slipping) 2010. The soil of the Siovy hill is clay and very hard and the rain water slips down very fast into the valley.  The wine is mostly Timorosso with a little Cortese. Massimo said that the Timorosso grape is only produced in the Colli Tortonesi and there are only 52 hectares of vines. Timorasso is a very old indigenous variety which was almost completely ignored during the 1960’s and 1970’s but has made a comeback. Massimo made it clear that wines made from this grape get better with time and can age up to 10 years or more. The average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is vertical trellis and simple guyot. There are 5,000 wines per hectare and the vineyard faces southwest. The harvest takes place in September. The grapes are crushed and soft pressed with a horizontal membrane press after 36/48 hours cryomaceration. Static decanting of the must tales place for 14/16 hours before the alcoholic fermentation (in stainless steel tanks for 15/20 days) starts using special select yeast inoculated in the must. The wine is on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and 8/10 months in bottle before release. $20IMG_4306

Barbera d’Asti “Piagè”   DOCG 2010 100% Barbera. In the Middle Ages Piagè was the place where the toll was collected. Grapes come from local estate grown selected vineyards. There are 5,000 wines per hectares and the average age of the vines is 10/15 years and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is mainly clayey limestone with rocks. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, skin contact is about 12 days and there is frequent pumping. Malolactic fermentation takes place and heating if necessary by means of inoculation of malolactic bacteria to facilitate the start of the fermentation. The wine is then left to settle in cement tanks for a few months. Massimo said that this was his every day Barbera. The wine was very easy to drink with nice aromas amd flavors of red berries, a hint of cherry and current and good acidity. This is a red wine that can go with a number of different foods.$14

Barbera D’Asti DOCG Superiore Nizza “Vignassa” 1999 100% Barbera. Massimo said that the Vignassa vineyard was the first one planted by his grandfather after the vineyards were destroyed by phyloxera. The vines were grafted onto American rootstock “St George” aka “Rupestris du Lot” which is resistant to phyloxera. Over the years the St George rootstock became more and more deformed so everyone started to call the vineyard Vignassa- ugly-vines. He said that when they dig up one of the old vines the roots go down as much as five feet. The average age of the vines is 90 years. Before the fermentation begins the “salasso” (Italian for siagneè) where the juice is blended off the must after limited contact with the skin. Massimo said this gives a  higher content of extract, which makes the wine suitable  for longer aging. Fermentation takes place in French oak barrels of 52HL. The must is left in contact with the skin for 18/20 days. The dèlestage aspirates all of the must, which determines the fall of the cap on the bottom of the tank.The wine is aged in new French oak barriques: fine grain and medium toast for 24 months. The barrels are seasoned for 3 years before they are used. This is a big wine that is almost 15 years old and showing no sign of age. $75IMG_4307

Colli Tortonesi 2011 Croatina DOC 100% Croatina. Massimo said that he just started making wine from this grape a few years ago. Massimo said the grape was also known as Bonarda and Uva Rara. The vineyard is Tenuta Mongualdone in Sarezzano and the average age of the vines is 10 years. The soil is dark clay. Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, with selected yeast, for 8-10 days with pumping over, followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is not filtered but lightly fined. The wine is aged in two, three and four yeas old French barriques. Only 2,000 cases are produced. $20. The distributor is T. Edward Wine, NYC

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Filed under Barbera, Cassina La Ghersa, Croatina, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Massimo Pastura, Timorasso, Uncategorized

Return to Fiorano

About a year ago, I visited Alessia Antinori at the Fiorano estate just outside of Rome. The estate has been in disrepair since the death of her grandfather, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, prince of Venosa.  For the fascinating background to this story and how Alessia and her two sisters came into possession of half of the estate see      “Fiorano Wine Estate in Italy Making a Comeback” by Eric Asimov in the New York Times and my article

When I visited Alessia had just began to restore the property and it looked like she had a long way to go


Alessia Antinori

This year, Michele and I were in Rome once again and Alessia invited us to visit the winery and have lunch with her. The winery is across the road from Rome’s Ciampino airport just 20 minutes from the center of Rome by taxi (just 30 Euros — they now have fixed fares to the airports in Rome).  Alessia picked us up at the airport and in a few minutes we were at the winery

Alessia had done a lot of work since my previous visit. All of the buildings had been restored and the winery was up and running. The vineyards were all planted in orderly rows and there was a very large organic vegetable garden which we toured.  Alessia’s grandfather had taken very good care of the land and believed in organic farming. Alessia said she was following in her grandfathers’ footsteps.

We sat down to lunch under the warm May sun; it was difficult to believe that we were so close to Rome.  We discussed her plans for the winery and of course the wine.

The Garden

The Garden

She said that she has turned part of the property into a country retreat for Romans who want to leave Rome during the warmer months. They can come for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She calls it Cucina Aperta. The guests can go to the vegetable garden and pick the vegetables that they want to eat and it will be prepared by the kitchen. So far it was all working out very well.

The soil at the estate is very special, Alessia said, volcanic with mineral salts and excellent for growing anything and grazing sheep.  She said that the shepherds liked to bring their sheep there to graze and the sheep would become fatter and darker in color because of what they ate, and the dust from the soil would stick and make them almost black in color.  Her grandfather grew wheat and was very fanatical about it.  He cultivated a “mother” from the natural yeasts in the area in order to make his own bread.

The conversation turned to the wine and Alessia said that she wanted to make wine the way her grandfather did.

The Vines

The Vines

This was very good news to me since, as many of you know, Fiorano Rosso made by her grandfather may well be my favorite red wine.  Alessia said that there were 14 hectares planted with vines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Semillon and Malvasia del Lazio. They are divided by hectares and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon are vines which come from a “massal’ selection (propagation) from the old vines. There are four rows of Cabernet Sauvignon and four rows of Merlot of the “old vines” (Vigna Storica vines more that 40 years old).  As for the historic Semillon, she said that they were supplied to her by “the brother of my grandfather’s assistant who lives on the estate and still has a few rows.”

Among these old vines were some plantings of Cabernet Franc, which Alessia thinks her grandfather used for the Fiorano, but is not 100% sure. The 2010, 2011 and 2012 Fiorano Rosso vintages were vinified at her father (Piero Antinori’s) estate in Umbria.  The 2013 is the first vintage to be vinified here. The 2010 (800 bottles produced) will not be released until 2014 or 2015.

Pasta for Lunch

Pasta for Lunch

With the excellent lunch we drank Fioranello a lively, fresh red wine made from young vines that went very well with the food. Alessia referred to this as her second label.

Up until now they are using different barrels including tonneaux to vinify and age the wine because they do not have enough wine to fill a large cask or a concrete tank.IMG_3181

This year the Fioranello was vinified in two concrete tanks and aged in two medium sized casks. The Fiorano made from the Vigna Storica was aged this year in tonneaux for reasons of space.  All of this may change in the future.  Alessia, by her passion for her grandfather’s estate  and the wine that he produced made it clear that this was her project and she would be the one involved in all aspects of it. I look forward  to tasting and drinking  Alessia’s first  vintage of Fiorano rosso.


Filed under Alessia Antinori, Fioranello, Fiorano Rosso

First Look at a New Import!

Tasting wines from a producer that I do not know is always very interesting.  Two brothers own the winery and it bears their name:  Società Agricola Marco & Nicolass Barollo.


Marco Barollo

Located in the Veneto near the town of Treviso, it was purchased by the brothers in 2001. There are 45 hectares of vines and they produce 300,000 bottles annually. These wines will not be imported in the U.S until January, so this is a first review of a new winery that has joined the Grapes on the Go fine wine portfolio for 2014.

I was invited to a tasting and lunch at SD 26 in NYC by Gary Grunner, president of Grapes on the Go.  Representing the winery was Marco Barollo, an owner and the export manager.

The WinesIMG_4269

Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV 100% Glera. The soil is medium-grained, limestone and clay, the training is by the sylvoz system (horizontal shoot from which fruit branches curve downward) and there are 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in September. The Charmat method is used, consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb-tanks for 90 days. Aging is 3 to 4 months. Marco said that the Charmat method produces smaller longer-lasting bubbles. The wine is kept at a low temperature and they only use as much as they need so the Prosecco is always fresh and is bottled all year round.

Marco said that it could have been labeled Extra Dry because the residual sugar falls exactly between the two classifications (12 grams). This is an elegant Prosecco, with small bubbles, citrus aromas and flavors, hints of apple and white peach and good acidity. The bottle is wrapped in yellow cellophane, which makes for a sophisticated presentation.  $16IMG_4267

Pinot Bianco 2012 IGT Venezie 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes is by hand in early September. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by a settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There is daily batonnage. Marco said that the wine remains on the lees for 6 months and 6 more months in bottle before release. Wines made in Italy from the Pinot Bianco grape have not gotten the attention they deserve in this country. They are excellent white wines and are very reasonably priced. This one is crisp and dry with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of apple, a floral characteristic and very good acidity that makes it an excellent wine with food.   $16IMG_4268

Frater 2012 Doc Piave 100% Merlot The training is low-spurred cordon with 3,570 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration lasts for 12 days. Daily pumpovers, devatting and malolactic fermentation take place. The wine is aged for 3 months in bottle before release. Marco said that this wine showed the true character of Merlot from the Veneto. This is a medium bodied soft and velvety wine that has the aromas of the grape that it is made from. There is good fruit with hints of cherry, currants and a touch of blueberry. I was very impressed with this wine and it just kept on getting better and better in the glass.  $16IMG_4266

Frank IGT Veneto 2010 100% Cabernet Franc. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,100 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand at the end of September. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration, followed by devatting and malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in Allier barriques 50% new and 50% one year old and 6 months in bottle before release. Marco pointed out that the wine did not have any of those ‘green’ flavors and aromas often found in Cabernet Franc from Italy. The wine has hints of vanilla, raspberry and cassis with a touch of pepper, it is international in style but not over the top.  $18

I believe that all of these wines are an excellent value for the money!

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Prosecco, Societa Agricola Marco&Nicolass Barollo, Veneto