Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tom Maresca Reviews A New Book “The Wines and Food of Piemonte”

A New Book About the Italian Piedmont

Tom Maresca

Tom’s Wine Line

tom-hylandBack during the summer, my colleague and friend Tom Hyland published an important and useful new book, The Wines and Foods of Piemonte.  It covers just about everything a wine lover could want to know about this blessed region, but of course – since the subject is the Piedmont – it gives pride of place to red wines.  For that reason, I thought I’d wait to say anything about it until the weather cooled down, and an oenophile’s fancy lightly turns to vino rosso.

Well, the moment has come: There is a nip in the air and an uptick in the appetite and a little more time being spent in the kitchen; some of the more organized among us are probably already thinking ahead to holiday feasts and even shopping for Christmas presents. When better to introduce you to a book that lays out all the palatal pleasures of the Piedmont?


The Wines and Foods of Piemonte
crams a huge amount of content into the space of a relatively small book.  Its less-than-200 pages cover not just Barolo and Barbaresco, but the other Nebbiolo-based wines of the northern Piedmont, as well as the region’s other important red varieties, Barbera and Dolcetto, and even beyond them the less familiar but very, very interesting Ruché, Grignolino, Freisa, and – a particular favorite of mine – the delightful Pelaverga.

And that’s just the reds: Hyland also treats sparkling wines, white wines, and sweet wines. Granted, Piedmont is not famous for its whites, but it does possess several very tasty indigenous varieties, to all of which Hyland does justice: Arneis, Gavi, Erbaluce di Caluso, Timorasso, Favorita, and Nascetta.  These wines deserve to be better known, and some of them – I’m thinking particularly of Nascetta and Timorasso – are capable of great nuance (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms).

The book provides useful lists of the best Barolo and Barbaresco crus and their producers, as well as recommendations for the best makers of other wines. It features very informative interviews with winemakers in all the Piedmont zones and also with some of the region’s most interesting chefs.  In fact, for anyone planning travel in Piedmont, the book’s most useful feature may be its several-pages-long list of recommended restaurants – many of which I can personally and happily vouch for.

Piedmont is a gustatory promised land, flowing with wine and truffles, and in Tom Hyland it has found an enthusiastic chronicler.

To order The Wines and Foods of Piemonte, contact the author

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LUGANA DOC: The White Wine of Lake Garda

One of my favorite places to visit in Italy is Lake Garda. I like sitting outside in a restaurant along the lake, eating the lake fish and drinking the local wine, in most cases Lugana DOC. While it wasn’t quite the same as Lake Garda, a dinner at La Pizza Fresca in NYC hosted by the Consorizo Tutela Lugana DOC was a good opportunity to try the new vintages.


Luca Formentini from the Selva Capuzza Winery

The Lugana denomination is on the border between the provinces of Brescia (Lombardy) and Verona (Veneto) to the south of Lake Garda. The soil is mostly white clay and limestone, which is difficult to work.


Angelica Altomare from the Cà Maiol Winery

The temperate breezes from Lake Garda influence the microclimate positively; it is mild and fairly constant with little difference between day and nighttime temperatures.

The Turbiana grape, aka Trebbiano di Lugana, is the main grape in many of the wines. It is related to the Trebbiano di Soave varietal.

The basic Lugana wine accounts for almost 90% of the production. There is also a Lugana Superiore, Lugana Riserva (aged for at least 24 months, six of which is in the bottle), a late harvest, and a spumante version.

The law allows up to 10% of non aromatic white varieties but most producers make the wine from 100% Turbiana.

All of the wines at the tasting except two were from the 2015 vintage.img_1617

Lugana DOC “Provenza” 2015 100% Trebbiano di Lugana. Cà Maiol Training system is Guyot and there are 4400 plants per hectare. The soil is calcareous clay and the wines are 20 to 25 years old. Fermentation is stainless steel and malolactic fermentation tales place. The wine has hints of white fruit, white flowers and a very pleasing finish and after taste.img_1626

“Felugana” Lugana DOP Feliciana made from Turbiana grapes from Lugana. Manual harvest takes place at the end of September. Soft pressing of the grapes takes place and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in bottle for one month before release. The wine has hints of white flowers, fruit and mineral notes. img_1618

Lugana “Centro Filari” Cesari made from 95% Turbiana and 5% Chardonnay. The vineyards are located on the Southern shore of Lake Garda in Peschiera del Garda and Pozzolegno. There are 11 hectares of vineyards and 4,100 plants per hectare. Pruning system is Archetto semplice and the soil is clay-calcareous. Almost 20% of the grapes are ripened on cut off shoots to enhance structure and concentration. The grapes are soft pressed and alcoholic fermentation takes place under controlled temperatures. The juice remains in contact with the skin until January and the wine is bottled in February. Hints of flowers and fruit with a touch of grass and herbs.

Lugana 2015 Azienda Agricola CA’ Lojera made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana (Turbiana). Vineyards are at the southern tip of Lake Garda (Sirmione). There are 4,000 plants per hectare. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There are hints of melons and tangerines, floral notes, a touch of mint and a fruity personality.img_1625

Lugana DOC Familia Olivini made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana. There is a hand harvest, followed by a gentle pressing of the grapes. Alcoholic fermentation with selected yeasts at a controlled temperature and a partial malolactic fermentation. Flowery with citrus scents, well balanced.img_1624

Lugana DOC “I Frati” Cà dei Frati made from 100% Turbiana. The soil is chalky clay and the training system is single and double guyot. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks and 80% malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged 6 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks and two months in the bottle before release. This is a wine that can be drunk young but becomes more complex with a few years of age. It has hints of almonds and apricot with a hint of spice and candied fruit.img_1631

Lugana Montunale   Azienda Agricola Momtonale made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes that are hand harvested. Montonale is a little village in the hills above Lake Garda. The soil is calcium mineral rich with clay and the vineyard is at 90 meters. There are 5,000 plants per hectare. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 10 days at a low temperature. The wine remains on the lees for 5 months with frequent battonage. It remains in bottle for at least one month before release. The wine has hints of peach, apple with a touch of spice.img_1619

Lugana Le Creete 100% Trebbiano di Lugana.  Ottella The grapes are hand harvested from their own vineyards. The training system is Guyot, double arch. The grapes are picked late, there is a brief maceration on the skins. Fermentation is partly in controlled temperature steel vats and partly in wooden crates. Well balanced fruity wine with hints of herbs and grass.

Lugana “Limne” DOC 2013  Tenuta Roveglia 100% Turbiana (AKA Trebbiano) di Lugana. The vineyards are on the southern shores of Lake Garda at 50 meters. The land is mostly flat and harsh with clayish soil, rich in mineral salts. Harvest takes place the third week of September by hand in small crates. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with a maximum extraction of 60% first-pressing must. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. The wine remains in stainless steel for 4 to 5 months. Bottling in various phases from February to September of the year following the harvest. It remains in the bottle for 2 to 3 months before release. The wine is fruity but dry.img_1620

Lugana DOC Cá Del Largo Lugana Villabella Made from 90% Trebbiano di Lugana (Turbiana) and 10% Chardonnay. The vineyards are along the southern shore of Lake Garda. The soil is clay -white and black. Harvest is the first week of October. The must is cold–macerated, pressing is soft and fermentation is carried out at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in stainless steel and then in bottle before release. The wine has excellent structure and hints of flowers and citrus fruit with good minerality.img_1630

Lugana Riserva “Menasasso” 2012 100% Turbiana. Podere Selva Capuzza Harvest is by hand and vinification is in stainless steel and barriques.  Luca Formentini from the winery told me that the wine is produced from a select plot within the Sleva vineyards. The grapes are harvested a few days after the regular vintage. A small part of the must is fermented in small oak barrels with the aim to impart extra complexity to the finished wine without imparting undesired wood flavors.This is a well-balanced complex wine that was not showing any signs of age. He said it could last for ten years or more. It was the wine I drank the most!



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Checchino dal1887 a Classic Roman Restaurant

Checchino dal 1887  Via di Monte Testaccio 30     email:

Open from 12:30 to 15:00 and from 20:00 to 24     Closed Sunday night and all day Monday

The Mariani Family has owned the restaurant Checchino dal 1887 since it opened in 1887. Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen.

Francesco and Michele

Francesco and Michele

Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world. The wine is kept in a cellar that was dug into Monte Testaccio, a hill made from broken amphorae, which dates back to Ancient Rome.

The slaughterhouses of Rome used to be located here and the restaurant still specializes in the innards and other spare parts, called the quinto quarto, which the poor people used to eat.

Michele and I first came here 33 years ago and come back every time we are in Rome, which is very often. There is an outdoor space but we prefer to sit inside.

I enjoy speaking with Francesco about wine and like his recommendations. He knows I like older red wines from the area around Rome, especially Fiorano Rosso, Torre Ercolano and Colle Picchione, which are now almost impossible to find, so whenever I come to Rome, he searches his cellar to see what he can find. In February it was a 1971 Fiorano, and the year before a 1983 Colle Picchione. This year he said that he found another bottle of the 1983 Colle Picchione and of course I wanted it.img_1312

Colle Picchione 1983, Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wines were aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1983 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as it was last time I had it.img_1313

To accompany the wine, I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense and so Roman!img_1314


Michele had Puntarelle con salsa di alici, a seasonal salad of Catalonian chicory with anchovy sauce, one of her favorites.img_1316

Bucantini all’Amatriciana — for me this is the best pasta dish and I almost always order it here. We both had it again.img_1315

Coda alla vaccinara ox-tail in a tomato sauce.img_1317

Fegato di vitello ai ferri — thin slices of grilled veal liver. It may be the best I have ever had, very flavorful and tender.img_1318

For dessert we had Torta stracciatella – one of my favorites. A cake with chocolate chips.img_1319

Tortino di pere e noci, a spiced pear cake with nuts and chocolate sauce.


If you go, ask for Francesco and take his advice on both the food and the wine. Be sure to ask if he would show you the wine cellar.

Checchino 1887 was one of the restaurants that took part in the Bio*Sagra for children, held at Fattoria Fiorano to benefit the Hospital Bambino Gesú

Here is a picture of Francesco serving the pasta e ceci at the event. Michele really likes this.

Mercato Testaccio (Testaccio Market) is just across the street from the restaurant and worth a visit. It is closed on Sunday.




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A Taste of Vesuvius in Rome: CasaSetaro Winery


I have tasted the wines of CasaSetaro in the U.S and in Italy and really liked them.

Massimo Setaro

Massimo Setaro

Michele and I were spending 3 weeks in Rome when I received an e-mail from Massimo Setaro (the winery is in the Vesuvius National Park) that he wanted to come to Rome so I could taste his wines.img_1501

We met at Bar del Fico, Piazza del Fico 26, for a light lunch so that I could taste the wine with food. It is close to the apartment we rented and we go there for our morning café, drinks, and to eat. It a kind of funky place and the people are very nice.

Massimo said the winery is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Trecase. All the vineyards are located inside the Vesuvius National Park.

There are 4,500 plants per hectare. He spoke about the terroir and said it is volcanic and sandy with a layer of lava on the surface and volcanic stone. There is a mineral character present in the wines. This composition of the soil makes the vines immune to phyloxera so many of the plants have European roots.

The exposure of the vineyards are south, southeast, at 200 to 450 meters. If you walk to the highest point, you would be surrounded by the forests of the Vesuvius National Park. Green organic manure is used and the vines are treated only with copper and sulfur. Selected yeast is used in all the wines and the winery uses only their own grapes.

Massimo said he had bought a number of oak barriques but does not use them for wine anymore. Now they are used for planters.

Massimo said he learned a lot from his father growing up in the winery where they live. He said he takes care of all the production steps from vineyard management to the final bottling and his wife, Mariarosaria, works at his side.

I was very impressed with the passion in his voice when he spoke about growing up in the winery, the Vesuvius National Park, his wines and that he and his family live at the winery.

The Winesimg_1504

Caprettone Spumante Method Classico 100% Caprettone Production zone Alto Tirone, Vesuvius National Park. The age of the vineyards is 18 to 25 years. They are at 350 meters and the training system is espalier, guyot trained with a few buds per plant. Vinification: maceration at 4C in steel tanks, fermentation for 18 to 24 days, the second fermentation takes place after about six months. The wine remains on the lees for 30 months and remains in bottle for about 12 months before release.

In June when I was a judge at Radici del Sud in Puglia, this wine was picked as # 1 in the spumante category by the journalist panel of which I was a member.

Massino said the Caprettone grape is excellent for making spumante method classico because it has very good body and produces a round and elegant wine. I have to agree.img_1503

Falanghina Campania IGT “Campanelle” 100% Falanghina del Vesuvio. Production Area: various micro zones within the Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vines are 18 years old. The training system is espalier with guyot pruning.img_1506

Massimo feels that Falanghina does not have the same rich character as the Caprettone. We both agreed however that with spaghetti con vongole verace, spaghetti with clams, we would drink the Falanghina. The wine has nice citrus aromas and flavors with a touch of minerality.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco “Munazei” 100% Caprettone. Production zone Vesuvius National Park. The training system is Vesuvian pergola and guyot. Vinification: Maceration in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and fermentation lasts for about 20 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for about 6 months and then in bottle for two months before release.

Michele and I first had wines made from the Caprettone grape few years ago on the Amalfi Coast and have been drinking them ever since.

Munazei- this is what they called the cold storage rooms built into the mountain where food was kept to prevent spoilage.img_1502

 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Rosato “Munazei” 100% Piedirosso. The vineyards are at 300 to 350 meters and the vines are 20 years old. Training system is espalier, guyot and Vesuvian pergola. There is a soft destemming and pressing followed by low temperature skin fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 4C for about 24 hours. The lees are removed and there is cleaning and controlled temperature fermentation at 10 to 12C for 18 to 24 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for 3 months and another 2 months in bottle before it is released. It has aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, strawberry and raspberry.img_1505

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Piedirosso DOC 100% Piedirosso. Espalier, guyot training Vesuvian pergola. Vinification: Maturation in stainless steel tanks for 6 months and in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of dark fruit with touch of blackberries violets. It is an easy drinking wine that goes very well with food.img_1508

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC Riserva “Don Vincenzo”  Made from 85% Piedirosso and 15% Aglianico. The production area is Tirone della Guardia. The vineyards are at 350 meters and are 30 years old. The training system is espalier, guyot trained. There is a natural selection of the hand picked grapes. Fermentation takes place, with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. The wine is then aged for 24 months in French oak tonneau and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a deeply rich wine with hints of cherries and raspberries with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Massimo said this wine is named after his father. He is very proud of the wine and gave me a magnum as a gift!

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Restaurant da Enzo, Rome

My next few blogs will be on restaurants in Rome and sites or food stores or markets that are close by.

da Enzo AL 29 Via Dei Vascellari 29 (Trastevere)

12:30 to 3:00PM and 7:30 to 11:00PM Closed Sunday

Phone 065812260

They only accept reservation for dinnerimg_1359

da Enzo, da Enzo, we heard the name over and over again from our Roman and American friends that love traditional Roman food. You have been to Rome so many times and you have never been to Da Enzo? You must go — but we were warned! If you are going for lunch go early, it is a very small place. They do not take reservations for lunch and it can be very busy.da-enzo

We arrived at 12:30 on the dot and it was empty so we got the best outdoor table by the entrance to the restaurant. Michele, who does not like to be the first one in a restaurant said “we did not have to come this early!”

Within five minutes however, there was a crowd of people coming from all directions. Within 10 minutes the place was filled and within 20 minutes there was a line waiting to get in.

da Enzo is simple traditional Roman food at its best.

The service is brisk but friendly and English is spoken.img_1360

We started with Fiori di Zucca, deep-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, among the best I have had on this trip. Then La Palla Al 29 — fried balls of cod, potato and cheese. We should have ordered more of them.img_1361

We both had pasta Carbonara. It was made with rigatoni, the best guanciale (cured pork cheek) I have ever tasted and the dish seemed much lighter than other versions I have eaten.img_1363

Michele was looking forward to the polpette three large meatballs in a tomato sauce, and she really enjoyed them.img_1362

I had Trippa Alla Romana –Tripe in a delicious tomato sauce.

We ordered the white house wine, which was very strong, and I cut it with water as the Romans have always done. It went very well with the food.img_1364

Last but not least the Torta Del Giorno was a light tender cake with ricotta and cherry filing, and of course caffé.

Three things to note (1) the portions are very large. (2) even with all the food we ordered the bill was only 74 euros! (3) when we left there was still a line waiting to get in.

Worth the Visitimg_1356

The church of Santa Cecilia is a basilica. There is The Last Judgment by Pietro Cavallini (c.1293) and a baldachino(sculpted canopy) by Arnolfo di Cambio over the altar (late 1200’s) and mosaics.

img_1354 There is also a famous music school connected with the church, and Cecilia is the patron saint of music. The sound of a student playing the clarinet greeted us when we visited, at other times students play the organ and the violin. It is just down the block from the restaurant:



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Bio*Sagra for Kids

Michele and I met Alessia Antinori a few years ago when we visited La Fattoria di Fiorano, her winery near Rome.

Last week, she invited us to attend a charity event for children which she hosts every year at the estate.

The #Bio*SagraforKids is organized by the eleven members of Fiorano for Kids, a group of friends with a common passion for wine and with children between 0 and 12 years who have the desire to rediscover and promote a lifestyle in harmony with nature. Their purpose is to contribute to a common goal to help children less fortunate as follows:img_1414

“Upon the recommendation of the Director of the Department of Neurological Sciences Hospital Bambino Gesú in Rome, their objective will be to finance each year a researcher who will focus their research on the therapeutic role of some diets in the treatment of epilepsy in children. The fundraising is developed through the organization of meetings and events in the territory of Rome, for the involvement and awareness of the participation of the fundamental role of donations in the development of three research projects for many children with epilepsy.” www.fioranoforkids.itimg_1391

The Bio*Sagra Sunday festival took place at the 100-hectare organic winery/farm La Fattoria di Fiorano just across from Rome’s Ciampino airport. 50 of Rome’s top restaurants and pastry shops were represented and served iconic foods including some of our favorites: Checchino 1887, Armando al Pantheon, Trimani Wine Bar, Enoteca Ferrara, Glass and Per Me. Fonzie The Burger’s House had the longest line!img_1395

A huge crowd showed up, many with toddlers who were very cute to see. The property boasts a large organic garden filled with seasonal vegetables and fruits and the children participated in workshops about gardening.

img_1397 They visited the animals, played on bales of hay, enjoyed organized games, listened to 3 different groups playing music, ran around, ate and had a good time.  Adults and kids alike enjoyed the variety of food supplied by the restaurateurs.img_1393

Michele and I were glad we got there early.  Alessia has done a lot of landscaping and planting since our last visit and the property is very beautiful. The trees were laden with quince and the gardens were full of cabbages, artichokes, and many other vegetables.img_1404

We tried tastes of several foods from different restaurants.  Rice balls with tomato and mozzarella from Supplizio, a veal tongue slider with greens, a sausage in tomato sauce hero from Bonci,img_1390

but the best was the zuppa di ceci from Checchino, which Michele swears she could eat every day.

Though the skies threatened rain, it did not stop the crowds from coming and having a great time. All of the day’s proceeds go to the Hospital Bambino Gesú in Rome.

Alessia Antinori said that her grandfather Alberico Boncompagni, the founder of the estate, was a forerunner of modern organic farming and it was her goal to keep up the tradition.img_1401

If you are visiting Rome and want to plan a day in the country, the estate welcomes visitors, especially families, every weekend. You can find out more information here at


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