Monthly Archives: April 2018

Le Morette Winery and Lugana DOC

Sometimes on a press trip I visit so many interesting wineries that I do not have enough time to write about all of them. In September I visited Lake Garda on a trip sponsored by Vignaioli Veneti,  a newly-formed organization of over fifty of the Veneto’s top small producers. One of the wineries I was very impressed with was the Le Morette-Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato Winery.

The winery is based in San Benedetto di Lugana , in the thin belt that divides the southern bank of Lake Garda and Lake Frassino, which is an important naturalistic site and natural reserve. Gino Zenato founded the winery over 60 years ago and in 1981 the management of the farm was taken over by his son Valerio. His sons Fabio and Paolo today manage the winery.  Fabio greeted us at the winery and he took us on a tour of the vineyards.

Fabio Zenato

Fabio said that the area of production of the Lugana DOC wine reaches out towards the southern bank of Lake Garda, in the towns of Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Pozzolengo and Lonato.  There are 30 hectares of vineyards on three different estates, two in San Benedetto di Lugana, and one near Sirmione.  All the vineyards are on clayish soil. Everyone agrees that the best grapes come from the area close to the lake which has the most clay.

Fabio added that the company was first a farm for wine shoot production, intended for viniculture, and the nursery branch of the farm continues with the production of wine shoots. It was Valerio who began the production of high quality wines.

Fabio did a tasting of the wines.

Lugana DOC “Mandolara” 2016 made from 100% Turbiana grapes from the La Mandolara vineyard on a narrow strip of land on the shore of Lake Garda. The training system is guyot, double and short modified and there are 3,500 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand in the second half of September. After a very soft crushing, vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and the wine remains in the bottle for at least one month before release. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of apple and peach and a touch of bitter almonds in the finish. The name of the wine comes from a particular protected species of wild ducks which nest in Lake Frassino.  The ducks are the symbol of the farm. We also tasted the 2012 and 2009.

Lugana DOC “Bendictus” 2015 100% Turbiana from the area of Lake Garda. Grapes are hand harvested and only the best grapes, the ones that get the most sunlight, are selected. Harvest takes place in the middle of October, later than the grapes used for Lugana Mandolara. After the harvest the grapes remain in contact with the must for 24 hours at a controlled temperature. Part of the must is fermented in tonneaux oak barrels and a portion of the wine is aged for 6 months in tonneaux oak barrels. This is a more intense wine with hints of exotic fruits and a touch of spice. We also tasted the 2007. Fabio said they are using less new oak in the 2015 than they did in the 2007.

Lugana DOC Riserva 2013 made from 100% Turbiana cultivated and selected from the estates vineyards with the highest clay content–over 40%. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks after a brief maceration. There is a slow fermentation using natural yeasts and then aging on the lees for 12 months. A small portion of the wine is aged in tonneaux. This is a complex and elegant wine with a natural mineral quality.

There is much confusion over the Turbiana grape which was aka Trebbiano di Lugana.  Fabio always  referred to his wines as being made from the Turbiana grape.

All of the white wines can age.

We also tasted the Bardolino Classico Chiaretto 2016 made from 55% Corvina, 35% Molinara and 10% Molinara. The vines are cordon trained and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. Manual harvest takes place the last week of September. It is aged for a minimum of one month before release. Maceration on the skins lasts for 12 hours. The wine has hints of peaches and strawberries with a touch of violet.

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Filed under Bardolino Classico Chiaretto, Le Morette Winery, Lugana Wines

Pizza with Roberto Caporuscio: Tipo 1 and Tipo 00 Flour

On the evening of our planned tasting at Keste Pizza & Vino Bleecker Street comparing pizzas made with Tipo 1 flour to Tipo 00, I made sure to arrive early so that I could have an opportunity to discuss the differences in the flour with the master pizzaiolo, Roberto Caporuscio.

Roberto is now using Caputo Tipo 1 flour, which the company describes as follows. “It is an historic flour by aroma, color and flavor. It has a high protein index of 13 and is made from a perfect selection of the best variety of grains with all the richness of wheat germ. Type 1 is suited for direct and indirect dough making with a longer rising time.”

Roberto pointed out to me that the dough made from Tipo 1 is slightly beige in color because the flour contains specks of wheat germ, while Tipo 00 is completely white.

“Tipo” refers to the fineness of the milling.  Tipo 00 is the finest grade of flour milled in Italy and has a consistency and color similar to fine white powder. It is made from soft wheat with a 12.5% protein content. Since 00 has less protein it contains less gluten. And it makes dough that is easier to stretch.

Tipo 1 is less refined because it contains a greater amount of bran, the outer part of the grains of wheat, as well as the wheat germ. Tipo 1 is packed with fiber, mineral salts and vitamins. Roberto said it has a higher nutritional value and therefore it is better for you,  lighter and easier to digest. He also likes it because it can ferment and rise longer than Type 00.

He also said that Tipo I  has about 80% hydration ratio and Tipo 00 has about a 60% hydration ratio. The ratio is the amount of water to the amount flour in the dough. This effects how the pizza rises in the oven.

Roberto said that up until the 1960’s pizza in Naples was made with Tipo 1 flour because they did not have the milling techniques to produce 00. Once they did, they switched to 00. This may be the why Caputo calls Tipo 1 “historical flour”.

I asked Roberto if he would mix the flours to make the dough for his pizza. He said never, one or the other, no mixing.

When everyone arrived Roberto asked if we were ready for the pizza challenge and we all said we were. There were 6 of us, the perfect number for pizza. Roberto said he would make one pizza Margherita using Tipo 1 and one using Tipo 00. Our job was to guess which was which and decide which we liked better.

Tipo 00

We tasted the first one and had some discussion and then tasted the second one. Without much effort, we all guessed correctly which was which and we all liked the one made with the 00 flour better.

Tipo 1

The consensus was that the 00 pizzas had a lighter, puffier crust and better flavor. They conformed to our idea of what Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be and the dough complemented the toppings. The Tipo 1 pie was very good , but we all preferred the 00 pies.

Roberto also made some excellent pizza for us using Tipo 1 as follows: 

Fontina Valle d’Aosta, porcini mushrooms and prosciutto


Stracciatella (mozzarella), anchovies, fresh lemon and basil

Figs, stracciatella and caciocavallo

Padrino pizza made with mild soppressata, Ragusano cheese, Gaeta olives and a drizzle of chili oil

Napoletana pizza made with tomato, anchovy and oregano.

It was a very interesting and informative evening and thanks to Roberto for taking the time to speak to us and  make all of the pizza himself!






Filed under Kaste, Pizza, Tipo 1 flour

Fennel Recipes from the Italian Vegetable Cookbook

Three Fennel Recipes

I keep forgetting what a versatile vegetable fennel is. I tend to think of it as raw spears nibbled to clean the palate between the main course and the cheese – a position it occupies admirably. But cooked fennel is also an excellent companion to many fish and meat dishes – a fact of which I was reminded recently when turning the pages of Michele Scicolone’s Italian Vegetable Cookbook.

There I found three recipes for fennel: one roasted, one braised, and one baked. I thought it would be interesting to make them all in a short time, to see how the differences would affect the results.

A bulb of fennel with its long feathery shoots can be a very pretty thing, but on the day I wanted to try the first recipe, the ones in local stores were looking fairly ratty. But fennel is a sturdy vegetable, which doesn’t seem to suffer much from age and handling. A useful characteristic!


Roasted Fennel with Potatoes and Garlic

Michele’s headnote for this recipe begins “Every time I prepare this, I wish I had made more. Everybody loves it, and it disappears fast.” Now, that’s a lot for a simple dish to live up to, so I was slightly skeptical. We’d see about it.

My faithful knife man cut half of that big fennel bulb into ½-inch slices (I saved the rest for the next recipe), and he also cut a ½-pound Yukon gold potato into ¼-inch slices. I spread them all on an olive-oiled baking pan, brushed them with more oil, and added salt and pepper.

The pan went into a 425° oven for 20 minutes, after which I took it out, turned over the vegetables, sprinkled on a minced garlic clove, and roasted for 10 more minutes, when the recipe said they’d be tender and browned. Tender they definitely were, but not even remotely as brown and handsome as the book’s photograph showed.

I wonder if my oven is running too cool. Still, it was dinner time, so out they came. And you know what? They were scrumptious. We both loved them, they disappeared fast, and I wished I had made more.

Golden Braised Fennel

A few days later I made the second recipe, which as almost as effortless as the first. The second half of that big fennel bulb, also in ½-inch slices, went into a sauté pan with melted butter.

I sauteed the pieces for four minutes on each side, until they were just beginning to brown, then poured on a little water, added salt and pepper, covered the pan, and cooked it very gently for 20 minutes. About half-way through, I checked and added a little more water to keep the fennel from frying. Then I sprinkled on two tablespoons of grated parmigiano, covered the pan again, and cooked for another minute, until the cheese melted in.

This was also a good dish, simple and homey. It tasted mostly of pure fennel – vegetal and lightly liquoricey. It was meltingly soft from the moist cooking, with just a hint of richness from the cheese.

Creamy Fennel Gratin

This recipe’s headnote calls it one of Michele’s favorite ways to eat fennel. It’s more elaborate than the others but not at all difficult or time-consuming to make. I was able to get a better-looking bulb of fennel for it than I had for the other recipes. (Too bad I had no use for the attractive feathery fronds!)

The fennel was to be cut in ½-inch thick wedges and parboiled until almost tender. My wedges came out rather thicker than that, so they took 10 minutes, not the suggested 5.

Drained, sprayed with cold water, and patted dry, the wedges went into a buttered baking dish; were topped with butter bits, heavy cream, freshly ground black pepper, and grated parmigiano; and baked for 20 minutes at 400°.

The fennel wedges absorbed almost all the cream, making them plump, lush, and velvety. The light crust of the butter-browned cheese was a good textural contrast. I think this would be an excellent dish to serve at a dinner party, alongside a broiled or roasted meat or chicken.

Three recipes, all tasting deliciously of fennel, but each sufficiently different to occupy separate flavor and utility niches: Nice!

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Pizza with Roberto Caporuscio and Tipo 1 Flour

About a month after returning from Naples, I went with some friends to Keste Wall Street for pizza.  Roberto Caporuscio, the owner and master pizzaiolo, wasn’t there when we arrived, but we ordered a few pizzas.  As I ate, I realized that something was different.  The pies did not taste the same as the last time we were here. Everyone agreed with me.  Had the ingredients changed or was it because the pizzamaker was different?

When Roberto arrived I told him that I thought the pizzas were different. He said he changed the type of flour. In the past he he used  Type Double Zero flour but now he uses  only Type 1 flour.  Roberto said he believed that Type 1 flour was healthier because it makes a lighter pizza that is more digestible. We made a date to come back again and Roberto said he would be sure to be there and would personally make all the pizza for us using Tipo 1 flour so that we could give him our opinion.

We went to Keste this week and Roberto was  already there.  I went to watch him make the pizza.

He showed me the dough and I noticed it was a very light beige and it had tiny specks in it. Robert said the specks were wheat  germ because Type 1 flour is less refined than the pure white Double Zero.  The wheat germ is what adds to its nutritional value.

Robert made the following pizzas for us using  Caputo Tipo 1 flour:

Bianca Romana focaccia filled with mortadella, pistachio cream and caciocavallo cheese

Pizza Pasquale (Pizza Fritta), named after Pasquale Torrente, master chef at Ristorante “il Convento” because of his skill in frying. The dough was deep fried using a special sunflower  oil containing rosemary. The fried crust is topped with homemade stracciatella cheese, anchovies and fresh lemon.

Rodi the topping is a spread made with anchovies, and white bread soaked in limoncello, with slices of lemon, basil and buffalo mozzarella

Regina Margarita made with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce 

Pizza Noci and Zucchine, topped with a spread made with walnuts and  mascarpone with baby zucchini and smoked buffalo mozzarella

Padrino mild soppresata, cacciocavallo ragusano, chili oil and Gaeta olives.

Even though some of the combinations on the pizza did not look like they would work they were all excellent. The problem was with the margarita pizza.  After I explained this to Roberto he invited me back again this time to Keste and Vino on Bleecker St. He would make one Margarita using Type 1 flour and one using Type 00 and we would have to guess which was which and which one we liked better. He would also more thoroughly explain the difference between the two flours. I am always up for a pizza challenge.


Filed under Keste, Pizza, Uncategorized

Celebrating the Art of Neapolitan Pizza in NYC

“Tu Vuò Fa’ il Napoletano- Facce de Pizza” comes to NYC to celebrate the art of the Neapolitan pizzaiuloi as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The idea for the event came with the recognition by UNESCO of the art of Neapolitan pizza making and was developed with the Association Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN).

In the photo art expert  Francesca Silvestri, Antonio Pace, President of VPNA, Peppe Mele, the VPNA delegate to the US and Elizabetta Cantone journalist, Co-Founder and CEO of Dress and Dreams.

The event was organized by journalist Elizabetta Cantone of Dress in Dreams Movies and Culture with the support of MiBACT- Direct Cinema. The events took place on April 16th at Ribalta Pizzaria, April 17 at NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marinò center and April 19 at Song’e Napule Pizzeria.

Cantone said these events intend to show the art of the Neapolitan Pizzaioli through the many films that feature pizza.

Chef Pasquale Cozzolino of Ribalta

I attended the event at Ribalta, which has a large screen.  We saw clips from American and Italian movies with pizza in all its forms being made and eaten.  There were clips from” The Gold Of Naples” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” just to mention two very different movies.

Cantone said that pizza in the past was a dish of the poor but today it is considered a gourmet dish prepared with the best ingredients.

I spoke with Pasquale Cozzolino the Pizzaiolo and Chef of Ribalta about his style and in particular the flour that he uses for pizza, which is a subject of great interest to me.,

In Naples many pizza places will list the source of all the ingredients to show they are only using the best ones.

Along with Pasquale some of the pizza was made by Rosatio Granieri from Rossopomodoro in NYC.  I tasted the pizza margherita, pizza marinara and another with cheese and sausage.




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Filed under Pizza, Pizza Restaurants, Ribalta, Uncategorized

Old Vintages of Italian Wine and Pizza

Roberto Caporuscio, one of the best pizzaioli in New York and owner of Keste and several other restaurants, is now creating his pizzas with a new type of flour that he says yields better results.  He invited me and a group of friends who enjoy older Italian wines to come to his Keste Wall Street location for a tasting. A full report on the pizza will appear in another blog.
The notes on the wines were written by Jason De Salvo and I added a few notes of my own. I have a great respect for Jason’s palate and his attention to detail.
The wines
1971 Verrazzano Chianti Classico
4/11/18 — 90 points.  Now-2022.   Slightly cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is mocha-infused red cherry fruit, black raspberries, dried meat, potpourri, earth and underbrush.  On the palate this has vibrant acidity, a bit of a hole in the mid-palate and a relatively short finish.  That said, it’s a lovely drink!  Charles: Sangiovese can age as well as Nebbiolo as this wine proves.
1974 Produttori del Barbaresco
4/11/18 — 92 points.  Now-2027.   Medium ruby-garnet color, slightly cloudy.  The nose is candied black cherries, fennel blossoms, honey, smoked game and subtle notes of tar.  On the palate this is lovely.  Elegant, refined dusty tannins and a medium-long finish. Charles: This was my second favorite wine. Produttori del Barbaresco can age. Barbaresco can age as well as or even better than Barolo.
1974 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.  Cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is stewed cherries, celery, wet leaves and tobacco.  On the palate this has sweet, stewed fruit notes and is clearly either past its
prime or a slightly off bottle.  Medium body.  The wine did work well with the pizza nonetheless.
Charles: We tasted the 1974  Barolo and 1974  Barbaresco side by side- it was no contest.
1947 Franco Fiorina Barbaresco
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.    Slightly cloudy amber-golden color with just a faint hint of ruby.  The nose is like a hypothetical blend of a 30-40 year old Tawny Port and a Fino Sherry with oxidative notes of caramel, stewed cherries and licorice.  On the palate there remains a sweetness from what was obviously a hot, tremendously concentrated vintage, but alas, this wine bottle is solidly into its twilight. 
1998 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — 92+ points.  Now-2040.   Medium ruby color.  The nose here is soaring with black cherries, minerals, licorice, rose blossom and cured meat.  On the palate this is vibrant, medium-full bodied with a complex, tactile finish. 
1979 Giovannin Moresco Barbaresco Poderi de Pajoré 
4/11/18 — 93 points.  Now-2030.    Medium ruby color.  The nose here is stunning with soaring notes of black cherries, black raspberries, crushed dried roses, freshly chopped garden herbs and baking spices.  On the palate this is supremely elegant and well integrated.  Gorgeous balance and a medium-long finished buttressed by refined, dusty tannins.
Charles:  for me this was the wine of the afternoon and it may be my favorite Barbaresco. It is made from the “Rose” subvariety of Nebbiolo. Unfortunately this was the last vintage and the vineyard was sold to Angelo Gaja.
1979 Cavallotto Riserva Vigna Colle Sud-Ovest
4/11/18 — 94+ points. Now-2028.    Medium brick-ruby color with a slightly watery rim.  The nose here is black cherries, black licorice, tobacco, a lovely stemmy note, coffee grinds, underbrush and smoked game.  On the palate this is velvety, nuanced and deep.  This is the best example of this wine I have had thus far. Charles: Jason liked this wine more than I  did.   I like their wines a lot but to me this bottle was not showing that well.


Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Borgogno, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Produttori del Barbaresco

Aglianico a Roma

After spending a wonderful week in Naples visiting wine producers and eating at some of the most famous pizzerias in the city and Campania, Michele and I went to Rome. There I received an e-mail from Ilaria Petito, the owner of Donnachiara winery in Campania, inviting me to an event called Aglianico a Roma (Aglianico in Rome).

Unfortunately I arrived too late to attend a seminar on Aglianico conducted by wine blogger and journalist Luciano Pignataro. However, I was able to taste some of the wines. ilaria introduced me to some of the producers that I did not know.

The Wines

Aglianico Sannio Santa’Agata dei Goti “Cesco di Nece” 2015 Mustilli made from 100% Aglianico from the 3 hectare organically planted “Cesco di Nece,” vineyard planted in 1994. Harvest is at the end of October. Grapes are destemmed and crushed. Fermentation lasts for about 15 days in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Maturation is second passage French oak for 9 months. Lightly fined, unfiltered and a small SO2 is added before bottling. It is aged for 9 months in bottle before release. I have always liked the wines of Mustilli and visited the winery two years ago with Campania Stories.

Aglianico Sannio DOC  2016 Mustilli 100% Aglianico from vineyards at 800 feet with volcanic and clay soil and a southwest exposure. The vines are 30 years old. Fermented on indigenous yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in French second passage barriques for 9 months and in bottle for 3 months before release.

Taurasi “Opera Mia” 2012 Tenuta Cavalier Pepe made from 100% Aglianico. The grapes come from the Carazita vineyard. Harvest takes place the first week of November and a selection is made in the cellar. Parts of the grapes go through a cold pre–fermentation/maceration to extract color and aroma. The alcohol fermentation is followed by a long maceration on the skins. After the wine is racked it is put into French oak (Allier and Troncais barriques) for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has ripe red fruit with hints of black cherry, prune and spice.

Taurasi Riserva 2012 “La Loggia del Cavaliere” Tenuta Cavalier Pepe. 100% Aglianco The vineyard is at 450/490 meters and the exposure is south/southeast. The soil is clay-like with calcareous and sandy layers. Harvest is by hand in mid-November. In the cellar, cold maceration is followed by alcoholic fermentation with prolonged maceration. The wine is aged in barrels for a minimum of 18 months with batonnage (stirring the lees). The wine has hints of blackberries, and black cherries with a touch of spice and vanilla.

Taurasi” Nero Né “il Cancelliere” 2012 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay and limestone. The vines are about 35 years old. The vineyard is at 550/600 meters and exposure is north and the formation is vertical trellised with spurred cordon pruning.

The grapes are destemmed and alcoholic fermentation and maceration take place for about 30 days at room temperature and a pneumatic press is used. Only wild yeast is used. Aging in steel for 6 months on the lees, depending on the vintage, then 24 months in Slavonian wood 35/50 hl and then 24 months in bottle. NO: filtration, clarification, stabilization or sulphites.

Gioviano-Irpinia Aglianico DOC “ il Cancelliere” 2015 100% Aglianico. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard has a northern exposure and is at 450/550 meters. There is destemming of the grapes, alcoholic fermentation and maceration of about 20 days at room temperature. Aging is in steel for 6 months on the lees then aging in Slavonian wood of 35hl for 12 months and then in bottle for 10/12 months. This was the first time I tasted the wines from this producer and I was very impressed by them.

Vigna Cataratte Riserva “Aglianico Del Taburno” 2012 Fontanecchia made from 100% Aglianico. Selected grapes are harvested by hand. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for about 20 days. The wine is aged for 2 years, of which 6/9 months are in French barriques.

Taurasi 2012 Cantine Macchie Santa Maria  100% Aglianico Macchie Santa Maria. This is a new winery with a production of only 3,000 bottles. It is located in the province of Avellino at Montemiletto. This is a wine with hints of sour cherry, plum and a touch of spice.

ilaria Petitto and her Taurasi 2012

Taurasi 2012 Donnachiara 100% Aglianico made from grapes from the 20-hectare Torre le Nocella vineyard. The soil is volcanic and clay, the vines are over 30 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is no filtration. The wine is aged for 12 months in used 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, coffee and vanilla. The wine will age. I know their wines very well and the 2012 Taurasi is one of my favorites.

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Filed under Aglianico, Mustilli, Rome

Wine Under the Volcano-Vesuvio

Rosario Procino, the owner of Ribalta, one of New York’s best pizzerias, invited me to attend a tasting and dinner, I like to call the event  “Under the Volcano”, the volcano being Vesuvio, sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Vesuvio.   

The speakers were Luciano Pignataro, a very influential  blogger, food and wine writer. I follow his blog (English) and (Italian) for all things Neapolitan and Southern Italy.   The other speaker was Ciro Giordano, president of the Consorzio  from Cantine  Olivella. They spoke  about the area in general and the different grapes used in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio such as such as: Caprettone, Catalanesco, Falanghina and Piedirosso.

Luciano and Rosario

The wines featured would be the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco and Rosso.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio may be the most known wine in Campania. The name means the tears of Christ. Legend has it that when Lucifer was expelled from paradise he stole a piece of paradise to take with him. In his flight he dropped this of piece of paradise and it became the bay of Naples and the surrounding area. When Christ saw this he cried and where his tears fell, Lacryma Christi was born.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio can be made from many different grapes and the producer may change his mix from one year to the next. Starting this year the producer  can put the name of the grape or grapes on the label.

There were many wines at at the tasting but five producers each presented a Lacryma del Vesuvio Bianco and Rosso.

Rosario explained the food to go with the wines prepared by his chef and pizzaiolo Pasquale Cozzolino.



Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC made from 85% Coda di Volpe and 15% Falanghina Bianco. The vineyards are in the Mt. Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 500 meters; the training system is Espalier with guyot pruning. Harvest is by hand. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented is steel at a controlled temperature. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, pineapple and peach and good minerality due to the volcanic soils.

Rosso DOC made from 85% Piedirosso and 15% Algianico. The training system is Espalier with spurred cordon pruning. Fermentation is in steel at a controlled temperature. The wine is full bodied with hints of red fruit and spice.

Rosario said this zucchini dish was typical of the area.  Zucchini a scapece is thin slices of zucchini fried and dressed with garlic, vinegar and mint.

 Cantine Olivella

Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, “LacrimaBianco,” made from 80% Caprettone and 20% Catalanesca. The vineyards are in the Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 450 meters, the exposure is west, there are 4,000 vines per hectare, the training system is Espallier with guyot pruning. The wines are 10 years old and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Classic white wine fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains is steel for 3 months and in the bottle before release.

Vesuvio Rosso “VIPT”  The age of the vines is 15 years. There is along maceration on the skins in temperature controlled stainless tanks. The wine remains in the bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of red and black fruit with cherry and prune notes and a touch of violet.

The next dish was eggplant parmigiano, so good I ate most of it before I remembered to take the picture.

Cantine Astroni

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio “Cratere” Bianco Made from Caprettone and Falanghina from Agro Vesuviano. Soil is predominately sandy, the training system is low arbour and cordon spur and the harvest is by hand the first week of October. Cryomaceration takes place and the fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for two weeks. Harvest is the first week of October by hand. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for a few months. This is an aromatic wine with hints of yellow fruit, apricot and mineral notes.

Cratere Rosso  made from Piedirosso, Aglianico and Sciascinoso from Agro Vesuviano. The soil is predominately sandy and the training system is low arbour and cordon spur. Harvest is manual in late October. There is a long maceration with delestage and fermentation is for two weeks in stainless steel. The wine is aged in stainless steel and bottle before release. This is a wine with hints of red fruit, violets, licorice and spicy notes.

Spaghetti al Pomodoro, Ribalta’s version has been named as the best in New York City.

Territorio De’ Matrone

Lacryma del Vesuvio Bianco made from 80% Caprettone, 15% Falanghina and 5% Greco. The Caprettone is distributed over three vineyards located at 30, 120 and 200 meters. Falanghina and Greco are at 30 meters. The Falanghina and Greco are fermented together with a pressing and fermentation without the pomace. The Caprettone is vinified alone with a 24-hour maceration period with the pomace. Then a soft pressing and fermentation takes place without temperature control. Andrea Matrone, the enologist,  said this helps to obtain a wine with slightly more intense color and a bouquet of aromas that are more related to the varietal and less to the fruity or floral notes due to fermentation. The wine has hints of citrus, almond and a touch of sage with good acidity.

Rosso made from 75% Piedirosso, 15% Sciascinoso, and 10% Aglianico. The Piedirosso is cultivated in 3 vineyards located at 30, 120 and 200 meters. The soil is volcanic sand/lava and basalt. Sciascinoso and Aglianico are cultivated at 30 meters. Maceration is for 10/12 days and delestage takes place. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats and tonnenau barrels. The wine has aromas and flavors of red fruit and cherry with hints of spice and a touch of smoke.

Pizza Margarita — needs no explanation.

Cantina del Vesuvio

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco made from 100% Caprettone. The vineyard is at 200/250 meters. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh and fragrent wine with hints of citrus fruit and a touch of almond.

Rosso made from 100% Piedrosso.The vineyard is at 220/250 meters. Traditional red wine fermentation with skin contact takes place. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques. The wine has hints of fruit, violets and a touch of sage. The winery is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvio.

And last but not least the famous pizza pala – this is a pan pizza and everyone at the table grabbed a slice as soon as it came out. I was lucky to get  a picture.  The crust was crisp and the toppings fresh and balanced.  Another great pizza at Ribalta.






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Hilberg-Pasquero Winery: In Harmony with Nature and the Moon

I was having lunch with a winemaker when Dino Tantawi, owner of Vignaioli Selections, walked into the restaurant. I have known Dino for a long time and have great respect for his portfolio of wines. We talked and Dino invited me to lunch at Baker & Co. the following week featuring the wines of Hilberg-Pasquero.

The winery is located in Roero in the Piedmont region of Italy between the Tanaro River and the Turin highland.  It was founded in the early 20th century on Bricco Gatto in the village of Priacca in southern Piedmont. It is not far from the Barolo and Barbaresco areas and is separated from them by the Tanaro.

Michelangelo Pasquero, known as  Mikio, is the current co-owner of the estate and the wine maker and grape grower.  His great grandfather began producing wine in 1915.  Mikio’s interest in organic farming took him to Sweden and Germany, which had more advanced organic farming methods. In Germany he met Annette Hilberg and she became his wife.


The speaker at the lunch was Annette Hilberg.

Annette said the winery is biodynamic and they do not use any pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard. Only natural yeast (yeast on the grapes) is used and no sulfites are added to the wine. They only use their own grapes and the harvest is by hand.

Grapes are pressed in a standard wine press similar to those used in the 1960’s. The wine pressing is manual.  Punching down of the cap for the red wine is done by hand. They follow the phases of the moon. On the back label it states, “Moon phases influence sea tides, the life of animals, plants and humanity. Like our ancestors, we respect nature, its cycles and potential energy to get the best possible expression of its fruit.”

The wines

Brachetto Secco “Vareij’ 2014 made from 75% Brachetto and 25% Barbera d’Alba depending on the vintage. The production zone is Bricco Gatti. The four-acre vineyard is at 780 feet with a southeast/southwest exposure. The soil is clay and marl. Fermentation is in open-top tanks for 5/6 days and the wine remains in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and 3 months in bottle before release. Only 600 cases are produced. This is a well-balanced wine with aromas and favors of red fruit and hints of roses, cloves and strawberries. It is an easy drinking wine.

Annette said the Brachetto is a very difficult grape to work with and difficult to make it into a dry wine.  It needs the Barbera to give it structure and acidity. This was the first wine they bottled in 1994.

Barbera d’Asti DOC 2014 made from 100% Barbera d’Alba. The soil is limestone and clay. Fermentation is for 5 to 6 days in open-top tanks. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for 12 months, one month in used barriques and 8 months in the bottle before release. The wine has ripe fruit aromas with hints of raspberry, cherry and a touch of strawberry. This is an easy drinking and a very food friendly wine. Annette said 2014 was a fruit forward vintage.

Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2013 made from 100% Barbera d’Alba (Monselli Cru) Production zone Priocca d’Alba. The 2.4 acres vineyard is at 840 feet and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is limestone and white clay marl. Fermentation is for 5 to 6 days in open- top tanks followed by a 14-day maceration period. The wine was immediately transferred to new French oak barriques for the malolactic fermentation and then aged in new French barriques for 22 months and 9 months in bottle before release. This is an intense Barbera with hints of strawberries, blackberries, violets and a touch of vanilla

Nebbiolo”Alba DOC made from 100% Nebbiolo d”Alba. Production area Priocca d”Alba. The 2.4 vineyard is at 840 feet. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is clay, marl with limestone. 5 to 6 days fermentation period in open tanks is followed by a 21 day maceration period. The wine was transferred into new French oak barriques for malolactic fermentation and is aged in French barriques mostly new for 22 months. After 9 months in bottle the wine is released. The wines drink like a Barolo with hints of red fruit, violets, rose, licorice and vanilla.

Annette had us taste the 2008 and the 2010 Nebbiolo side by side because these were more classic vintages which will age.  The 2009 was softer with more fruit. While it will also age, it was more approachable.

Baker & Co served very good Italian food which went very well with the wine. I was very impressed by their Roman style pizza.



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The Unique Wines of Cascina Ebreo


When I was the wine director of i Trulli restaurant in NYC, we carried the wines of Cascina Ebreo. These are unique wines and I always wanted to meet Peter Weimer, the man who produced them. Even though the invitation to meet Peter and taste his wines was scheduled for the night I was to leave for Rome, I just had to go.  Along with Peter the other speaker was the young enologist Gian Luca Colombo.

Peter and Gian Luca

Many years ago Peter Weimer, a successful businessman and wine collector, drove from Switzerland to the Langhe in Piedmont. He visited the producers and brought back their wines. Peter liked the wine so much and visited so many times that he became friends with many of the producers. He would bring bottles of Burgundy and other wines to share with them when he visited.  Eventually, Peter and his wife, Romy Gygax, decided to follow the advice of friends.  They moved to the Langhe and bought a winery.

In 1991 he brought Cascina Ebreo (Ag.Agr Weimer Gygax) with its southwest oriented vineyards not far from the town of Novello.  It was called Cascina Ebreo from the 18th century but no one knows why.

Peter stated that his vision for making wine in Piedmont is: “unruly, sincere, spontaneous, anarchic and crazy just like all great wines should be.” He is not  your typical winemaker and in many ways he is just as unique as his wines.

Rosso made from 70% Dolcetto from grapes which were not crushed, 20% Barbera Segreto and 5% Nebbiolo Tobido. The production zone is Bricco del Gallo, Dogliani- Ravera subzone Nivello. The Rosso and Barbera are pressed together, while the Nebbiolo is included in the end during the malolactic fermentation. Spontaneous fermentation takes place with 25 to 30 day maceration in steel. The wine is aged in Austrian oak for four months and another six months in bottle before release. This is a fragrant, fresh straightforward wine that can be drunk young or can age.  It has aromas and flavors of red and black fruit.

Segreto 100% Barbera from vineyards in the Ravera subzone of Novello from late harvest grapes. The exposure is east/northeast. Pressing and spontaneous fermentation takes place in steel, with maceration between 25 and 30 days. It is bottled without filtration. The wine is aged in German and Austrian oak barrels and spends at least two years. Peter described the wine as “a singularly severe and selective wine, it charms and seduces with its complex profoundness, enigmatic emotionally and indescribable mystery.”

“Sinché… ” 2015 100% Sauvignon Blanc, clones from the Loire Valley and Friuli. Vineyards in Novello until 2016. From 2017 in San Sebastiano subzone of Monforte D’Alba. The grapes are immediately pressed in a closed bladder press and the wine is transferred to stainless steel tanks. After 48 hours the must is separated from the solid parts and transferred to barriques of which some are new for fermentation. The wine remains here for 28 months in contact with the yeast left over from fermentation. Each week the battonage takes place. Then the wine is separated from the yeast and returns for 6 months to steel tanks. After it is bottled, no filtering, it remains in bottle for two years before release.

Peter’s description is “A unique Sauvignon, it is aromatic, complex and mercurial in character. The perception of wood is muted, almost imperceptible, but it aids in the longevity of the wine.”

Gian Luca Colombo made the Rosso and the 2015 Sinchè… in cooperation with Peter. In 2014 Jean Luca was voted the best young enologist in Italy. Peter hopes Gian Luca will follow his path of winemaking.

Peter gave the name Torbido! to this wine because when he presented his first vintage to the DOCG commission to qualify as Barolo, they told him that wine cannot be labeled Barolo because it is cloudy, in Italian torbido. Peter decided to follow his own philosophy of production. No filtration or fining, organic fertilizer, natural yeast, etc. He believes that we have to live in harmony with nature. Peter never went before the commission again so his wine is not labeled Barolo.

He only uses grapes grown on the estate and the harvest is by hand.  The vineyard is 1.5 kilometers near the village of Barolo below the village of Novello, the zone is know as “Ravera.”  Both Cogno and Vietti have vineyards in this zone.

We tasted the Torbido! made from 100% Nebbiolo. Peter said that wine is produced only in extraordinary years. The wine is fermented in the classic style with a maceration of 20/25 days. Selected yeast is not used, nor is there automatic temperature control. Pete said that with pumping over or pushing down of the treber head (cap) for 3 or 4 hours, there is a maximum extraction of color and aroma. Malolactic fermentation takes place in wood.

After fermentation the wine rests in steel for a short time. Then it is transferred to second and third 600 liter Allier and Tronçais French oak of medium toast. Only some of the barrels are new. He said they replace the barrels which do not fulfill their needs any more. The wine remains here for 30/36 months with some movement to support the natural clarifying process by sedimentation. It is bottled without filtration. The wine remains in bottle for two years before release.

We tasted 6 vintages of the Torbido!  Peter described the Torbido! as a deep and structured wine. Rich and vibrant with a charming and complex personality that is endowed with lively, full and enjoyable tannins.

2010 Peter said that that the summer was perfect and the weather in September was good.

2009 He said this was a hot vintage the wines were big and much heavier than the 2010

2007. He dd not say much about this vintage

2006 has a lot of tannin

2005 was a vintage that showed what Nebbiolo should be and said it was better than the 1995

2004 was a good vintage.

These wines were classic with hints  of cherry, tobacco, tar, tea and violets. They are wines that can age.



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