Monthly Archives: April 2014

Pairing Gnocchi with Three Wines from The Alto Adige

Gnocchi ricotta with tomato-butter sauce

A few weeks ago Michele made ricotta gnocchi with tomato-butter sauce from her new book “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” for a dinner with friends. One of the guests said that she had tried making potato gnocchi but they never turned out right. Michele said that ricotta gnocchi were very easy to make and she would be happy to show her. Last Saturday, our friends returned and brought prosciutto and melon for an antipasto and three bottles of wine from the Alto Adige to see which one matched best with the gnocchi.IMG_5206

Michele and I used to do wine and food pairing classes and we found that one of the following scenarios was typical:

-The wine and the food may be good on their own but in combination they do not work and leave a bad taste in your mouth.

-The next is when the wine and food do not combine but each keeps its own individual character.

-The last is when the wine and food combine to give you the perfect combination.IMG_5204

Südtirol Eisacktaler Kerner 100% Kerner. Abbazia Di Novacella. The vineyards are 600-700meters, the soil is gravelly morainal deposits and the exposure is south-southwest. The training system is guyot, there are 6,000 to 7,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at 20°C. Only natural yeast is used and the wine remains in stainless steel tanks for 6 months before it is bottled. This is an aromatic wine with hints of apple and peach, ripe and full with crisp acidity.

We drank this wine with the prosciutto and melon, and it was a perfect combination. Later, we tried the Kerner with the gnocchi. It was good, but the flavors did not marry. The tastes remained separate.IMG_5205

Alto Adige Sauvignon Sanct Valentin 2012 100% Sauvignon Blanc St. Michael-Eppan. The grapes come from different vineyards in Appiano Monte all at 400 to 600 meters and the vines are 10 to 18 years old. There is long maceration at low temperatures in steel tanks and then 12% of the wine is aged and refined in big and small oak casks. This is sauvignon blanc from Italy with all the characteristics of the best is sauvignon blanc with a hint of figs and light spice. This is one of Michele’s favorite producers of white wine and I have to agree with her.

The Sauvignon blanc overwhelmed the gnocchi so that there were two different tastes but mostly Sauvignon blancIMG_5202

Hexenbichler Schiava Alto Adige DOC 2012 100% Schiava Tramin The grapes come from the 6 acre Hexenbichler vineyard. The soil is clay-loam and pebbles, the training system is Pergola, the elevation is 990 to 1,320 feet and there is an eastern exposure. Harvest takes place in September. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 10 days and aging takes place for 6 months in 50 to 100 HL steel tank. Length of time before bottling is 6 months and 2 months in bottle before release.IMG_5209

This is a light red wine with fresh fruit flavors and a nice finish finish and aftertaste. It was the perfect combination with the gnocchi, the light fruitiness of the blended perfectly with the delicate ricotta gnocchi and the tomato and butter sauce.



Filed under Abbazia di Rosazzo, Alto Adige, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kerner, Sanct Valentin, Sauvignon Blanc, Schiava, St. Michele-Eppan, Tramin winery

A Great Dolcetto Producer Gets Even Better

Clavesana- Siamo Dolcetto – We are Dolcetto

I had lunch with Tony di Dio, the Brand Ambassador  of the Clavesana winery, my favorite producer of Dolcetto, for an update on the wines and the winery.  Tony said that they have a new wine maker, Damian Sicca, and a new agronomist, Marco Bealessio, but Anna Bracco is still Clavesana’s director and Giovanni  Bracco (no relation to Anna) is still  the Clavesana Coop’s president and has been so since 1987. The consulting enologist since 2011 is Gianfranco Cordero.  Tony said that the winery now sets standards for the production of their wine that are stricter than those imposed by the EU. With over 350 family vintners, it would be very difficult for them to be certified organic but all the growers pay attention to the impact they have on the environment and on the ecosystem. They feel that by maintaining the authenticity of the territory they are able to guarantee the authenticity of the wines.

When they say Siamo Dolcetto – We Are Dolcetto — they really mean it.  Last year the coop sold over 300,000 cases of Dolcetto, over 90% in Italy. The Coop was founded in 1959 by 32 growers and today there are about 350 members. They are committed to grow Dolcetto.

  Tony put me in contact with the winery and Anna Bracco  and she told me that their logo features the ten landmark “campanili’ (bell towers) of the towns where the growers (shareholders) live. These are the towns of Dolcetto’s homeland. The keys on the logo are the symbol of the town of Clavesana, which has been named the gateway to the Langhe. Some of the growers have other jobs and can only look after the vineyards part time and their agronomist Marco Bealessio gives extra help to these growers so they will not feel alone and abandon the land. She went on to say that they are trying to keep young people from leaving the area and the land and are doing everything possible to help them to stay.

 Anna made a point of saying that they pay the growers according to the quality of the grapes and will pay them as much as 20% higher than the market price. This she says is another incentive for the growers to produce superior grapes.IMG_5211

 Giovanni Bracco explained some of the Italian terms that they use including the idea of “singular-plurality”.   Clavesana’s microvinification is called Vinification alla Giornata, and Allagiornata are the single vineyard Doglianis—Dolcetto DOCG.

 Allagiornata – A day’s work from the single vineyards of Clavesana’s stakeholders. The term refers to the amount of work accomplished by two Piemontese bulls in one day.  When they have finished for the day, they have worked one “giornata”, nearly one acre (3,310 meters). This is the root of Clavesana’s singular plurality. He went on to say that even though they are a co-op, some growers bottle wine from a single vineyard. Day in and day out they live“Allagiornata”. They are identified on the label of each bottle by the stakeholder’s number and name. On Google Earth, it is possible to zoom in on the exact location of the vineyard by entering its single vineyards’ coordinates from the label. For example:  Giovanni explained that his vineyards are at 571 meters above sea level and his single vineyard wine is 110 Dogliani DOCG delle 3 Giornate di Socio 110 a Calvesana 44º 27’ 59.76” N 7 56’ 54.26’’ E. . We also had the  474 Dogliani DOCG  2008 from the 5.5 Giornate of Socio 474 in Clavesana-Marco Beccarai 44º 27’ 42.55’’N 7 55’07.34’’E.


Sig. Bracco further explained the difference between the Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC and the Dogliani DOCG.  The old winery, the heart of Clavesana, was originally built only with cement tanks. Later, stainless steel tanks were added but mostly on the outside of the winery.  Dolcetto di Dogliani 2009 and Piemonte D’OH 2010 were vinified in stainless steel tanks and are left here or transferred to cement tanks for a few months. For these last two wines, there is no minimum aging.

 Dogliani DOCG/ Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore– The DOCG has the lowest yields in liters (wine)/ hectares 4.760 of all the different zones of Dolcetto production in Piemonte. The minimum aging is 12 months from Oct 15 of the year of the grape harvest. The minimum alcohol is 12.5%. It is interesting to note that if vineyard and geographical names are on the label, the yield is reduced to 4284 liters/hectare (wine) and the minimum alcohol content is increased by 0.5%. Il Clou Dogliani DOCG is vinified in stainless steel but is aged in botte grande (large oak barrels of oak 50hl).IMG_5210

Allagiornata Dogliani DOCG (Socio 110 for example) are the only ones vinified in cement. The length of time depends on the vintage, 4/6months. 2010 is $21

 Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC –  With geographical and vineyard names on the label the yields are reduced to 5040 liters/hectare (wine) and natural alcohol content is increased by 0.5%.  All of the wine is made from 100% Dolcetto grapes. 2011 is $ 15

 The name Dolcetto means sweet little one but the wine is dry. It has medium alcohol, tannin and a deep ruby red color. They can be light wines fresh and fruity like the “D’HO” Piemonte Dolcetto DOC 2011 that is meant to be drunk young and has written on the label “You D’OH Something TO ME.” Tony said that because the D’ OH is made to be drunk young it now has a twist off cap. They can be full bodied and well structured like the “Il Clou” Dogliani DOCG 2010 aged for a short time in botte and the Allagiornata vinified in cement and aged in botte grande that can age for several years. All of this depends on the area of cultivation and how the grapes are vinified in the winery. The Il Clou 2010 is $18

  Dolcetto is 90% of their total production, though Clavesana also makes other wines. IMG_5212

 I have heard it said that the best Dolcetto comes from the Dogliani zone and after tasting and drinking the Dolcetto from Clavesana I agree. Even their “D’HO”which is a Piemonte DOC (meaning the grapes can come from any Dolcetto area) is a bargain at $12 as is the Dolcetto di Dogliani. The Dogliani DOCG, both the regular and single vineyard, are a great buy at $15 as are the other two Dolcetto’s.


Filed under Clavesana, D'OH, Dolcetto

Interview of the Week : Charles Scicolone – “Piazza Life” Gianluca Rottura

Interview of the Week : Charles Scicolone – “Piazza Life” Gianluca Rottura

Perigord 172a

Whenever my father tries a new style wine, loaded with oak, vanilla, and ripe fruit, he shakes his head in disappointment and says, “This wine is not sincere. A wine should be sincere ! ” Maybe it’s because Charles Scicolone is Italian and born in the same year as my father, that he reminds me of him. The two are very similar. Besides both being earth signs, they take me back to a time when, let’s be honest, things were better.

I do not remember when I first met Charles, but it was probably in the very late 90′s and I immediately liked him. Look at him. Look at his hair. He looks like you can stick him into any Italian painting from any era and he would fit. I remember stopping by the restaurant “I Trulli” and their wine store “Vino” to chat with Charles and admire the great wines he would help select.

I admired those wines because, like Charles Scicolone, they were sincere. There were no disguises or fakery. He selected those wines because he loved and respected them and knew where they came from. Charles views wines as people; they are constantly evolving but must always be true to their roots. If a wine comes from Sicily, it should have Sicilian character and not be masked by the international costumes in the forms of low acidity, over-ripe fruit, vanilla, and too much oak (to name the main villains of the many). It is thanks to people like Mr. Scicolone and his influence that winemakers are resisting the tidal waves of conformity. He urges them to stick to what they know best: telling their stories through their wines.

Charles’ resume is anvil heavy. Besides being a wine consultant, writer, and educator, he helped build up ” I Trulli ” into one of New York’s top restaurants and their wine store ” Vino ” into a go-to destination for Italian wines. When you are as good as Charles, the name James Beard will follow you around. Besides the coveted James Beard nominations for outstanding wine service and wine list (6 years running), he also coordinates the wines for the Italian themed James Beard Awards. On the charitable side, you can also throw in the St. Vincent’s Hospital Kids Project Fundraiser. The list goes on and on, but I can assure you his credentials are unmatched.

Charles the man is much more impressive than his resume. I love to listen to him tell stories. Whenever I am curious about a wine or vintage of a wine I did not try, I ask Charles and if he says it is good, I will order it without even trying it (something I almost never do). He formed a super team with his amazing wife, Michele, who is one of America’s most important food writers. When you meet them, it gives you hope in marriage and a strong belief that all couples should be like them. I mentioned to a group of friends who also know Charles that we should make a movie about him. Until then, check out what he had to share with Piazza Life.

1) What do you look for in a wine? Character? Balance? Price/Value?

Price/Value, Character, Balance are not concerns. I am interested in which wines go best with the food I am eating. I never drink wine without food. When you go to a bar in Italy and order a drink or a glass of wine, they always send out small sandwiches, peanuts, etc. If the wine costs under $20 – even if it is $12 – and if it goes with what I am eating, I will order the wine. I will not order a wine no matter how special it is if it does not go with what I am eating. First comes the food, then the wine.

2) We have seen the wine world change dramatically and mostly for the worse. Where do you see wine going?

When I first started drinking wine in 1968, almost all the wine went with food. Then came the international style wines – over-concentrated wines aged in new barriques, which have so much wood and vanilla, they do not taste like wine. It was like drinking vanilla with your food. When I was the wine director for ” I Trulli ” in NYC, wine makers from Italy would come into the restaurant ( we only had Italian wines, 600 of them on the list) and try to sell me an international style wine made for the American market. All these wines taste the same. They have no sense of place. I would ask them if they drank these types of wines at home. Their answer, after some hesitation, was “NO !” Then I would ask, “Why are you trying to sell something you will not drink?” I am happy to say that, recently, there are many winemakers that are making wines less overly-international styled. There is some hope!

3) As a wine educator, what were the main points you tried to stress the most to your students to help them get it.

Know how the wine is made. In other words, what is the style of wine? Do they use stainless steel, barriques,large barrels etc ? What grape/grapes are used and where does the wine come from? If it comes from California or Australia, you already have a good idea of the style. Don’t be afraid to say that you do not like a wine, even if it is very expensive. There are very expensive wines that people go crazy for; I will not drink them. It’s not because of the price but because of the style. Give me a $16 Piedirosso instead.

4) I envy your travel schedule. You go places most people could only dream of visiting. What are your favorite places and where do you visit most?

Italy is #1. I love every region and have been to all of them more than once. The best region for food and wine is Piedmont, especially in the fall. I love the food in Rome and if I were a rich man, I would live in Rome. Naples and the Amalfi coast – I go there often. All of Italy is wonderful. I also go to France. Paris and Northern Provence are my favorite places there.

5) Do you believe in an After Life?

One can only hope.

6) Favorite meal and favorite wine (they do not have to pair well with each other, just favorites individually) ?

As I said before, the wine has to pair with the food. Fiorano per 1995 with lamb in Rome- in the oven, fried, or on the grill. I once had the perfect meal in Rome: Zucchini flowers, deep fried and stuffed with Mozzarella and anchovies, Pasta Amatrciana, and baby Lamb and potatoes in the oven.

7) Being married to Michele, you guys have formed a Super team : Food Expert and Wine Expert. Do you guys ever disagree on a wine or dish?

We discuss the food and the wine. Most of the time Michele will make a dish and I will then pick a wine to go with it. For the most part, Michele leaves the wine up to me. Sometimes, I will have an older wine that is ready to drink and will ask Michele to make a dish that goes with the wine.

8) Speaking of your marriage, how did you two meet?

We met in a singles bar on 1st ave. I saw a very attractive young woman sitting at the bar, but she was with someone. Next thing I know, she is standing next to me with a cigarette in her hand. I do not smoke but the friend I was with did. I snapped my fingers and said to him “Light it”. And the rest is history.

9) How will the emerging markets of China and India affect wine style and wine business?

China will keep the prices of expensive wine high and is a hugh market. I was talking to someone from India that imports food to India from all over the world. He knows all about wine and liquor but does not drink. He said that the taxes on these items are so high, that only the wealthy can afford to drink. He did not see India as a good market.

10) If you could live in any era, which would it be?

I was a Medievalist in my former life, so may be the Middle Ages. But I like it here now.

11) Would you not travel to Italy for 3 years for $ 5 million?

I would travel to Italy for 3 years for much less than that.

12) Which are your favorite soils for producing wines?

Volcanic soil, limestone, clay. gravel, marl. Campania, the Rhone, Piedmont etc

13) Can you leave me your amazing wine collection in your will?

The last question is very interesting..


Filed under Piazza Life, Uncategorized

Tasting the Red Wines of Campania

Seminars for both the white and red wines of Campania were given on the same day. I attended the seminar on the white wines but was unable to stay for the red wine seminar. However, I was able to taste and drink the red wines at the dinner held at Del Posto and at the walk around tasting that was held between the seminars. It was very interesting to be able to taste wines from some producers that I did not know.

The Grapes

Aglianico:-this is a black late ripening grape, which may have been brought to Greece by the Phoenicians. The Ancient Greeks then introduced it into Southern Italy and it took root in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. Aglianico is mentioned by Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) in his Natural History. It may be one of the grapes used in Ancient Roman’s most famous wine Falernian. Aglianico, along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, are often ranked as the three top grape varieties in Italy. See Jeremy Parzen’s excellent article on how Aglianico got its name. Taurasi, made from Aglianico (Campania), is one of Italy’s great wines. They can last many years. Recently I had wines from the 1958 and 1968 vintage and they were wonderful.

Piedirosso – means “red foot” in Italian because the bottom of the vine has a red-colored triple-branched stem like a dove’s foot. In the local dialect it is also know as Palombina (little dove) and Pere’e Pallummo (dove’s foot). Nicholas Belfrage in his book “Brunello to Zabibbo” says “…Piedrosso is a very ancient grape and may be identical to the Colombina mentioned by Pliny.” He also says that Piedirosso is related to the Refosco from Friuli.

“Both… are members of the Cot family of grapes. Of which the best-known example is Malbec. The Refosco has a peduncolo rosso-a red stem

I really enjoy wines made from 100% Piedirrosso. They are fruity with aromas of plums and cherries and a hint of spice. These wines are inexpensive, well under $20 and worth the effort to find.IMG_5012

Quintodecimo Terra d’Eclano Aglianico Irpinia DOC Made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay and tufa. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the harvest is from the middle to the end of October. The maceration period is about 20 days and malolactic fermentation takes place naturally in barriques. The wine spends between 18 and 24 months in new barriques depending on the vintage and another year in bottle before release. I believe the winery is organic. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas of tobacco,cassis and leather.IMG_4904

Taurasi DOCG  2009 Donnachiara 100% Aglianico coming from the 20 hectare estate vineyard Torre le Nocelle. Ilaria Petitto from the winery said that all of Donnachiara’s red wines are made from grapes from this vineyard. The soil is volcanic, the vines are 30 years old, the training system is Guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of September. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is no filtration. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225-liter French barriques, and 24 months in bottle before release. This is a big complex wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and plum and a touch of cacao and coffee.IMG_4967

Terra di Lavoro Roccamofina IGT Made from 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso. The Gaiardi Estate produces only this wine. The vines are planted in volcanic soil and there are very low yields. The training for the vines is spur-pruned Cordon, there are 1,800 plants per hectare, the vineyard is at 1,485 ft. with a western exposure. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 20 days. Maceration lasts for 14 days with pumpovers. The wine is aged in French barriques (225 liters) for 12 months. 70 of the barriques are new and 30 are second passage. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas of berries and plums and hints of licorice and coffee. The wine was aged in new barriques but I did not pick up any of those international aromas and flavors.IMG_4979

Ragis- Made from 80% Aglanico and 20% Piedirosso La Vigna Di Raito. The soil is shallow and mostly sand on a chalk rock layer. The Aglianico vines are cultivated on Guyot espalier and the Piedirosso on pergolas, a system characteristic of the Amalfi Coast. The exposure is south-southeast and there are about 3,500 plants per hectare.There is separate vinification for the two grapes in stainless steel vessels for over 15 days under controlled temperatures. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barrels. The two wines are transferred into 500 liter French oak barrels and blended. They remain here for 12 months. Then the wine spends another 12 months in bottle before release. It has the power of the Aglanico with the aromatic hints of the Peidirosso, which makes it an elegant wine with a lot of body. This is the first time I have tasted this wine.


Lacryma Christi di Vesuvio Rosso  Casa Setaro  Made from Piedirosso 85% and 15% Aglianico. The vineyards are at 220-350 meters and the manual harvest takes place at the end of October. The vines are15-25 years old and the training system is guyot and pergola Vesuvian. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and temperature controlled fermentation. Racking takes place with pneumo-pressing. Maturation is in stainless steel for at least three months, followed by three months in small oak barrels and then aged in the bottle. The wine has aromas of dark fruits, berries and fern, with mineral undertones in the background. On the palate it is full, soft, and fresh.



Filed under Aglianico, campania, Casa Setaro, Domodimonti winery, La Vigina Di Raito, Lacyma Chrisiti di Vesuvio, Piedirosso, Qointodrcimo, Ragis, Terra d'Eclano, Terra di Lavoro

Gnocchi and Boca

Company was coming and Michele wanted to make something from her new cookbook: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes and Dessert. She asked me what I was in the mood for but with so many delicious choices, I could not make up my mind. Then I saw the picture of the Basil Ricotta Gnocchi in Tomato Butter Sauce and I knew that was it. I planned to match it with the 1985 Boca.IMG_5102

We started the evening as we usually do with Champagne:IMG_5095

Champagne Delamotte Brut NV 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Nero and 20% Pinot Meunier. Light and fresh with citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. The sister house is Salon and both are part of the Laurent-Perrier group. At $38 a bottle, it is a bargain and is our current house champagne.

Boca 1985 Campo Delle Piane La Meridiana made from 85% Nebbiolo,15% Vespolina and some bunches of Bonarda.  Boca is Piemonte’seasternmost DOC zone, and with theexception of the also little known area of Sizzano, it’s northernmost as well. It is entirely surrounded by a mountainous national park. It forms something of a southerly exposed amphitheatre at 400-500 m elevation, just west of Lago d’Orta.IMG_5099

For over 60 years, Antonio Cerri, the owner of La Meridiana, made Boca from his one half hectare of vines. He seemed more concerned with making Boca than with bottling and selling it.  Enter Cristoph Kunzil, a Swiss importer of Italian wines. Antonio was ready to retire and Mr. Kunzil saw an opportunity so he bought the land and the cellars. He spent time with Antonio to learn the history of the place and the wines. The La Meridiana winery does not exist any more and Mr. Kunzil calls his winery Le Piane.

Gary Olson of Artisan Wines Inc., the importer and distributor, put me in touch with Mr. Kunzil who told me that the current wines under his Le Piane label are made the same way as the wines of Anthonio Cerri, and added that the cellar may be a little cleaner.  Long fermentation occurs for about a month and no yeast is added. The aging is in barrels of 20hl for 5 years or more for the  wines that were made by Mr. Cerri and 3-4 years for the Le Piane.  Le Piane owns the Cerri wines, and sells them as a rarity to show the potential of the Boca region.

Mr. Kunzil said that the1985 was the best of the bottled wines of Mr. Cerri, still young and with a lot to give. The 1985 was bottled in 1995. The wines from this area are lighter than the ones from around Alba and therefore were a perfect combination with the ricotta gnocchi and light tomato sauce. I was very impressed with the wine. IMG_5096

Barbaresco 1998 DOCG La Spinona. I00% Nebbiolo. The winery is located in the town of Barbaresco and it is a family run winery operated by Pietro Berutti, his son Gualtiero, and grandson Pietroparlo. They only use their own grapes.

They have 10 hectares of vineyards on the historic Faset hill with a south-southeast exposure. The vineyard is at 270 meters and the vines are 35 years old. Harvest is by hand in October. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and there is skin contact for 14/21 days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is racked and spends 2 years in 2,500 Slovenian oak casks. On the label there is a picture of a special breed of hunting dog raised at the winery.  One of the dogs saved the son of Pietro from drowning and so they put a picture of the dog on the label. This is a fruity, spice, fragrant and elegant wine. It is made it a style which reflects all the Nebbiolo characteristics but is ready to drink sooner than most. The 1998 was at its peak. IMG_5097

Chateauneuf–du–Pape 1995 Chateau-Fortia (Baron Le Roy De Boiseaumarie) Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre in Magnum.

After a manual harvest the grapes are destemmed, crushed and fermented separately in 9 to 150 hl concrete vats or stainless steel vats of 50 to 150 hl which are temperature controlled. Fermentation lasts for 20 to 25 days depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation takes place in 33 to 40 hl concrete tanks. Then the wines are racked and the different varieties are blended together. The wine spends 12 to 18 months in “founder” (metal tanks) where they will be fined and filtered prior to bottling and remain in the bottle for several months before release. Yields in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are limited to 35 hectoliters per hectare and they are below the limit. This is a big impressive wine and I decanted it before serving but I should have done it a few hours before.






Filed under Barbaresco, Boca, Campo delle Piane, Champagne, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Delamotte NV, Italian Red Wine