Monthly Archives: November 2017

Wine and Food at Gattopardo with Tony Di Dio


Recently I posted on Facebook pictures of wine and foods I had at Gattopardo with Tony Di Dio of Tony Di Dio Selections. The response to the posting was so positive that I decided to do a blog about that lunch.

Etna Bianco “Alta Mora” DOC 2016 Cusumano (Sicily) made from 100% Carricante from 6 hectares of vines at 600 meters, the training system is espalier. The average age of the vines is 15 years.Production area is: Milo, Praino contrada, side and Castiglione di Sicily in the Verzella contrada.

Light pneumatic pressing takes place followed by static decanting and racking. Fermentation temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at 18/20 degrees C. Then the wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 4 months and successive fining in bottle. This wine has hints of citrus fruit, honey and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

Carricante is one of my favorite Sicilian white grapes.

Vermentino Di Maremma Toscana “Balbino” DOC 2016 Terenzi made from 100% Vermentino. The soil is rich in limestone, the training system is guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Their harvest is in the middle of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with a pneumatic press. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature without the skins for 12 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks until it is bottled.

The wine has hints of citrus fruit, floral notes and a touch of herbs.

With it, we enjoyed fried artichokes with prosciutto di Parma.

Chardonnay “Felesia” d’Amico (Umbria) made from 100% Chardonnay. The vineyards are at 450 meters. The wine is aged for 10 months in first, second and third passage French oak barrels and another 5 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of almonds, honey, butter and vanilla.

We enjoyed mozzarella “in carrozza,” water buffalo milk mozzarella coated with crumbs and served with a light anchovy sauce.

Etna Rosso “Alta Mora” DOC 2015 Cusumano made from 100% Nerello Mascalese from Castiglione di Sicily, in the contradas of Verzella, Pietramarina, Feudo di Mezzo and Solicchiata. The vineyard is 12 hectares at 600/800 meters, the training system is free standing espalier and the average age of the vines is 20 years.

Manual harvest. There is a light pressing and destemming, maceration at 28 degrees C for 12 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and successive fining in 25 hl barrels. This is a fruity aromatic red wine with hints of red fruit, currants and raspberries. It is an easy drinking wine.

Grilled octopus with oven baked fingerling potatoes

Linguette with Manila Clams and Cherry Tomatoes was thin spaghetti with briny fresh clams and sweet tomatoes.

Sangiovese Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2014 DOCG Terenzi (Tuscany) made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is deep with coarse sand and clay, stony and well drained. Training system is cordon spur and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is at the end of September. There is destemming and partial rupture of the grapes and then a pneumatic press is used. Fermentation lasts for 15 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration is on the skins during alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation occurs spontaneously in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 12 months in tonneaux and large Slavonian oak casks and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a full bodied, well balanced wine with hints of red berries, cloves, spice and black pepper.

Paccheri pasta with Genovese sauce. A classic Neapolitan dish, it consists of large pasta tubes in a long cooked onion sauce.


Filed under Cusumano winery, d'Amico, Gattopardo, Terenzi WInery

Le Potazzine: Traditional Brunello at its Best

Gigliola Giannetti, owner of Le Potazzine winery, and her daughters Viola and Sofia met me for breakfast at Tarrallucci e Vino in NYC, a meeting arranged by Riccardo Gabriele of PR Vino. That night, I would meet them again for a dinner featuring their wines at La Pizza Fresca but it was a pleasure to get to know them when we could just sit and talk.

Gigliola explained that potazzine is the Italian word for the very colorful and vivacious birds which inhabit the Tuscan country side. In Montalcino, grandparents and parents often use potazzine as a term of endearment for children. Viola and Sofia were affectionately nicknamed potazzine by their maternal grandmother.

Viola, Sofia and Gigliola

At the dinner that night, Gigliola spoke about the winery and the wines. The estate consists of five hectares of vineyards in Brunello. Three hectares are located close to the winery at 507 meters and the average age of the vines is 14 years. The rest are located in the area of Sant’Angelo in Colle and are at 340 meters and were planted in 1996. The training system is unilateral cordon and there are 6,0000 vines per hectare. She said the wines are made in the most natural way meaning natural fermentation with indigenous yeast, long maceration, and aging in medium-sized oak barrels of 30 to 50 HL of the Garbellotto Company, in compliance with tradition for both the Brunello and the Rosso.

The Brunello is usually aged in barrels for 40 months and the Riserva produced only in the 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2015 vintages remains in wood for about 60 months.

They have always worked organically and beginning in 2019 the wines will be certified organic. The rosso remains in wood for 12 months even though there are no specific aging requirements.

Rosso di Montalcino 2015 made from 100% Sangiovese. The grapes come from two distinct vineyards the winery property Le Plata which has a southwest exposure at 500 meters and La Torre with a southeast exposure at 320 meters. The wine is aged in big oak barrels of 10, 30 and 50 HL for 12 months. It remains in the bottle for an additional 5 months before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, violets and a touch of herbs. This is a wine that can age for a few more years but is drinking very well right now.

At the La Pizza Fresca dinner, we enjoyed it with Beef Carpaccio.

Brunello di Montalcino 100% Sangiovese it is aged in oak barrels of 30 and 50 HL for 42 months and 8 more months in bottle before release. These are complex and elegant wines with hints currants, balsamic, violets, red fruit and a touch of herbs. They will age for a long time.

Here are the wine and food matches we enjoyed for the following vintages:

2013 — Mezzi Rigatoni con Polpettine

2012 — Pizza Margherita

2011 — Pizza Salame Piccante

2010 and 2007 — Manzo Brasato al Vino Rosso with the last two wines.

It was an enjoyable dinner and the food was well matched with these traditional Brunellos.

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Roberto Di Filippo: Horses, Geese and Organic Wine

A few months ago, the Wine Media Guild did a tasting of wines made from native Italian grapes that are not very well known. Some of the wines were real gems, but one produced by Roberto Di Filippo that was made from the Trebbiano Spoletino grape really stood out.

Elisa Bosco of PR Vino, who organized the wines for the tasting, later asked me if I wanted to attend a tasting featuring more of the wines of Roberto Di Filippo. She said that Roberto would present the wines.

Roberto Di Filippo

Roberto is a very engaging and informative speaker and you can hear the passion when he speaks about his wines.

The Di Filippo winery is 30-hectares and overlooks Assisi on the hills between Torgiano and Montefalco in the heart of Umbria. Roberto and his sister Emma own it.

It is situated in Cannara and nearby is Pian d’Arca, where St. Francis spoke to the birds.

Plani Arche is 6-hectares of vineyards owned by Roberto Di Filippo and his wife Elena. Roberto said that they have a tradition of cultivation which respects nature, as they strongly believe in the need to find a constant balance between man, soil, flora and fauna. He has introduced a number of different ecologically friendly systems.

Agroforestry is a land use system of land management involving simultaneous cultivation of farm crops, trees and shrubs. It combines shrubs and trees in agriculture and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, ecologically sound and sustainable land use systems. As part of this they use workhorses in the vineyard to do the cultivation and to solve the problem of soil compression. Roberto said they raise geese within the Plani Arche vineyard. He said a number of times he is first of all a farmer and that everything depends on what happens in the vineyards.

Since 1994 the wines have been cultivated organically, and biodynamic cultivation was introduced some years ago. They are certified organic according to E. U. regulations for the Plani Arche vineyard.

It can be a little confusing as Roberto makes the same wines under both the Di Filippo and Plani Arche label.

The difference for me between them is that the Di Filippo wines were bigger and more intense, while the Plani Arche wines were more elegant.

The wines

Trebbiano Spoletino “Farandola” (Umbria) 2016 IGT Di Filippo made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino

The soil is clayey-calcareous and the vineyards are on hillsides. Training method is guyot and there are 4,600 vines per hectare. Fermentation takes place off the skins at 18 degrees C and the wines remain in stainless steel until bottled. This is a fruity wine, rich in flavor with hints of citrus. It has good acidity and minerality. It is one of the best examples of Trebbiano I have ever tasted. Roberto said the Trebbiano Spoletino is native to Umbria and is different from other Trebbiano grapes.

Trebbiano Spoletino IGT 2016 Plani Arche made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. There are 4,400 plants per hectare. Fermentation is off the skins at a low temperature. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel casks for 4 months. This is a fresh and complex wine with citrus flavors and aromas and buttery notes.

Grechetto Colli Martani DOC 2016 Plani Arche 100% made from Grechetto. The vines are spur cordon/guyot trained; and there are 4,000/5,000 plants per hectare temperature. The wine is aged in steel casks on the less and then in bottle before release. This is a fruity wine with a hint of spice and a touch of almond in the aftertaste.

Grechetto IGT Bianco dell’Umbria IGT 2016 Plani Arche made from 100% Grechetto from hillside vineyards. This wine is produced without the addition of sulfites.

The soil is clayey-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 plants per hectare.

Montefalco Rosso DOC Plani Arche made from 60% Sangiovese, 25% Barbera and 15% Sagrantino. The soil is clayey-calcareous, the training system is guyot and cordone and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Fermentation takes place for 10 days. The wine is aged in large casks for 12 months. This is a wine that is ready to drink now. It has hints of ripe red fruit, a touch of cherry, pomegranate and a long finish and very pleasing after taste. I took the half empty bottle home with me to have with dinner.

Sagrantino is a grape that is very dark in color and has a lot of tannin. Roberto has managed to tame the grape and produce a wine that is food friendly.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG “Brown Label” 2013 Plani Arche100% Sagrantino. There are 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are hand-picked to ripen well and are left to macerate for a few days. This is an intense wine with a persistent fruity taste and hints of pomegranate and spice.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2013 Di Filippo made from 100% Sagrantino. The soil is clayey-calcareous, there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is the same as the wine belo wine below. This is a full-bodied wine, tannic with hints of red fruit and a touch of flint.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG “Black Label” 2009 Plani Arche made from 100% Sagrantino. There is a prolonged traditional maceration and the wine is aged in barriques and tonneaux for 18/24 months.

This is a full-bodied wine with intense red berry aromas and flavors and a hint of flint and spice. This wine will age.

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito Plani Archi made from 100% Sagrantino. The drying period (appassimento) lasts for 2 months and a subsequent maceration in the winter period. Aging takes place in stainless steel and barriques. This is an intense fruity wine with hints of black and red fruit, especially blackberries with a long finish and pleasing after taste. I liked this wine so much I took the open 375 bottle home with me.

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Filed under Amarone, Di Filippo, Montefalco, Passito, Plani Arche

Tasting Sicily and Firriato Wine at Norma Gastronomia

I have a long history with the wines of Firriato from Siciily, and Salvatore Fraterrigo, chef/owner of Norma Gastronomia Siciliana. I first tasted Firriato wines when I was the wine director for I Trulli restaurant in NYC, and shortly after, Salvatore became the restaurant’s chef.

When Michele and I went to Sicily, we visited the Firriato estate near Trapani. We were treated to a typical Sicilian lunch paired with their wines and learned to appreciate them even more.

Salvatore with a cuscus bowl

Both Salvatore, known as Toto, and I are Sicilian and we became friends. He would come to our apartment to cook and we traveled in Sicily with him. Salvatore once had owned a restaurant in Trapani and he told me that he had the Firriato wines on his wine list. He even knew the owners of the winery Salvatore and Vinzia Di Gaetano.

When Daniela Pugliesi asked me to host a lunch for journalists with the wines of Firriato I suggested we hold it a Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, Salvatore’s restaurant. I knew we would have Sicilian food like we had in Sicily.


The speaker for the event was Federico Lombardo di Monte, the COO of the winery. He said that Firriato is a family run business. The president is Salvatore Di Gaetano and the CEO is Vinzia Novara Di Gaetano. Irene Di Gaetano Lombardo di Monte Iato is the Chairman.

Federico said that Firriato is comprised of 6 estates, four of which are near Trapani: Baglio Soria, Borgo Guanini — the largest with over 140 hectares of vineyards, Pianoro Cuddia and the Dagala Borromeo. On the east coast near Mount Etna is the Cavanera estate that has 11 hectares of vines. The Calamoni estate is on the island of Favignana, one of the Egadi Islands off the coast of Trapani.

Glasses of Gaudensius NV Blanc des Noirs Metodo Classico Brut Etna DOC greeted the guests as they entered the restaurant. It is made from 100% Nerello Mascalese from the Northeastern slopes of Mt. Etna at 650 meters. The soil is sandy with good drainage. There are 3,500 plants per hectare and they are cordon Royat trained. Harvest is by hand the last week of September.There is a soft pressing of whole grapes and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The second fermentation (Classic Method) is in the bottle. The juice is in contact with the yeast for 32 months with frequent “Coup de poignet” to enhance the complexity of the bouquet and taste. Sugar is 8g/l on average. This is an elegant and complex spumante with hints of berries, brioche and currants with a long finish and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

One of the journalists, Ed Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies praised this wine so much he was given a bottle to take home.

The Firriato wines that I will discuss in this post are those that I did not write about in a previous post. For more information see:

Le Sabbie dell’ Etna Bianco DOC 2016 made from Carricanti and Catarrato. 

This wine was an accompaniment to Arancina Al Nero Di Seppia – Deep-fried squid ink risotto rice balls filled with spicy shrimp ragu. These were moist and flavorful inside with a crusty brown breadcrumb coating.

Altavilla DOC Sicilia 2016 made from 100% Grillo from the Trapani countryside at the Borgo Guarini estate. The soil is of medium mixture mostly clay. The exposure is westerly and at 250 meters. The vines are cordon trained and spur pruned/guyot and there are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation lasts for 15 to 18 days at a controlled temperature. The grapes are soft pressed and remain on the lees for 3 months with daily shaking. The wine remains in the bottle for two months before release. The wine has hints of tangerine, grapefruit, melon and sage and a touch of almond.

Crocchette di Baccala Con Salsa Ali-Oli — Salt cod coquettes in sesame crust were served with aioli sauce. The cod filling was creamy and delicate and the sesame seeds made a crisp coating, perfect for dunking in the aioli.

Jasmin IGT Terre Sicilane 2016 made from 100% Zibibbo from the Trapani countryside at the Borgo Guarini Estate. The soil is mid-mixed, mostly clay. The exposure is west at 300 meters and there are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot. Harvest is by hand the last week of August.Fermentation lasts for 20 days at a controlled temperature. The grapes are soft pressed and then spend 3 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks with daily shaking. The wine remains in the bottle for 2 months before release. This is a highly aromatic and dry wine with hints of citrus, both yellow and red fruit, jasmine and a touch white flowers.

Federico pointed out that zibbibo usually is grown in Pantelleria and used to make sweet wines. This version is dry and the grapes were grown in Trapani. This is the first time I had a dry version and was very impressed by it.

Cus-Cus Trapanese Ai Frutti Di Mare – Salvatore makes the cus cus grains from scratch from semolina that he brings in from Sicily. It is a painstaking process and the results are quite different from the quick cooking variety you find elsewhere. He cooked the cus cus in a delicious sea food broth that contained clams, squid, mussels and several types of fish in a lightly spiced broth.

Le Sabbie dell’ Etna Rosso DOD 2015 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio

Caponata Palermitana Con Panelle, Caprino E Mandorle – Salvatore’s sweet and sour eggplant stew is cooked “Palermo style” and served with chick pea fritters, goat cheese, and toasted almonds.

Chiaramonte Terre Siciliane 2015 IGT 100% Nerod’Avola

Pizza “Rianata” This spicy pizza is a specialty of Sicily for lovers the flavors of garlic, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, and oregano.

Santagostino Rosso, “Baglio Soria” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 made from Nero d’Avola and Syrah

Pasta Alla “Norma”– Salvatore uses imported durum paccheri, a large tubular pasta, and sauces it with fresh tomatoes, eggplant, basil, ricotta salata cheese.

Ribeca DOC Sicily 2013 made from 100% Perricone

Anelletti Alla Palermitana in Casseruola – Tiny ring shaped baked pasta are baked in a casserole with beef & pork ragu, green peas, Italian ham, eggplant, primo sale and ricotta salata cheeses, and basil.

Harmonium Sicily DOC 2013 100% Nero d’Avola

Involitini Di Arista Alla Siciliana – Pork loin slices stuffed with a mixture of cured meat, smoked mozzarella and roasted tomato and roasted.

“L’Ecrù” Passito IGT Sicily 2008 made from Moscato and a small amount of Malmsey.

Cannoli – House made cannoli are filled with sheep milk ricotta and pistachios.

I was very pleased by the food and wine combinations chosen by Salvatore and Federico. The pairings were perfect and it was like eating and drinking in Sicily.


Filed under Firriato, Norma, Sicily, Uncategorized

Chateau Climens and Cheese a Perfect Combination

Two days after I returned from Lyon and Beaune in France, I attended a tasting of the wines of Chateau Climens, Grand Vin De Sauternes paired with cheese.

Chateau Climens is considered by many to be the number one producer in Barsac. Though Michele and I had enjoyed cheese and wine after practically every meal in France, the wines had always been red or white and I looked forward to attending.


Château Climens’ history can be traced back to the 16th century. Lucien Lurton bought the property in 1971 and his daughter Berenice Lurton has managed the estate since 1992. In 2009 she brought the shares that belonged to her family and became the owner with 100% of the shares. We were fortunate to have Berenice as the speaker for the event.

Berenice said that the estate is located in the southern part of the Barsac appellation, just outside the small village of La Pinesse. The vineyards are all planted with Semillion grapes and lie on the highest point in Barsac at 20 meters. There are 30 hectares of vineyards stretching around the château in one continuous vineyard, which apparently has not changed since the 16th century. The soil is gravel/sandy topsoil and limestone clay subsoil. This is the “red sands of Barsac.” The average age of the vines is 35 years.

Berenice said that the micro climate of Sauternes, aided by the exceptional terroir allows for the early development of noble rot, Botrytis Cinerea. The staged harvest is meticulous in order that only grapes affected by perfectly pure botrytis are harvested. Yields can be low and vary from year to year.

The grape must undergoes fermentation in barrels without the addition of cultured yeast. This is an old technique and the only one which allows the beginning of the maceration on the lees. The wine is then aged in small oak barriques (new and used) for 20 months. The final blend takes place in vats.

Berenice said Climens is classified as a Sauternes 1er Cru Classé. In 2010 the estate was converted to biodynamic cultivation.

With the cheese we tasted 4 sauternes from Château Climens:

Cypres de Climens Barsac 2012 100%, Grand Vin De Sauternes made from 100% Semillion, like all of their wines. The winery is the only producer of single variety wines of the region.

This is the “second wine,” Berenice said, because it is the second selection from a blending, implying that there is no difference in the production process of the two wines, only the tasting deciding their future. Cyprés obeys a different idea, that of obtaining a delicious wine from an early age, while the complexity of Climens requires minimal aging of just a few years.

The wine is fresh and smooth with hints of white fruit, citrus fruit, apricot and a touch of pineapple.

Then 3 vintages of Château Climens 1st Cru Barsac Grand Vin De Sauternes 2009, 2007 and 2005



The 2009 and 2007 are classic Chateau Climens  wines and will only get better with age.

Berenice suggested we taste each wine with all the cheeses.

The Cheese

Saint-Nectaire (Auvergne) this is a pressed cheese matured for 6 weeks on rye straw. It is smooth but not soft, flavorful, nutty and vegetative with a touch of milk and salt.

Petite Sapin Vacherin Mont D’Or (Franche-Comté) this is a washed rind cheese ripened in spruce bark which should not be removed when serving. The cheese has a smooth, silky and buttery texture with woody and nutty flavors.

Ossau Iraty (Pays-Basque) this is a hard cheese matured for at least 6 months

Mimolette Extra-Aged (Pas-de-Calais) this is a pressed and cooked cheese matured for 18 months. The cheese is hard dry and crumbly with an orange color. It has aromas of roasted nuts with a touch of butterscotch. I kept going back to taste this cheese!

Ami Du Chambertin (French–Comté) this is a soft cheese with a washed rind by Marc de Bourgogne spirits and is matured for 1 month. It has a moist creamy texture inside, and strong sharp flavor with a savory tone.

Époisses (Bourgogne) this is a soft cheese with washed rind by Marc de Bourgogne spirits and matured for 1 month. It is creamy, firm and moist and full flavored.

Blue D’Auvergne (Auvergne) this is a blue-veined cheese matured for 3 months. This cheese is firm, buttery and slightly supple. It is full flavored, woody with spicy tones of grass and mushrooms.

Fourme d’ Ambert (Auvergne) This is a blue-veined cheese, matured for two months. It is firm without suppleness, rich and creamy, fruity and slightly salty but sweet on the palate.

All of the wines worked very well with the cheeses. 

The 2005 is fantastic. It is a complex wine with a precise balance between the sweet, acidic and bitter elements. It has hints of honey, apricot, nectarine, and marmalade,  mouth filling almost creamy with a very long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.



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Filed under Chateau Climes, Cheese, Sauterne, Uncategorized