Monthly Archives: October 2018

Tasting and Learning about Grappa at the Distilleria Marzadro

The Marzadro Distilleria in Trentino was one of the distilleries Michele and I visited on the Hello Grappa Tour in May..  I had met Alessandro Marzadro in NYC a few years ago when he was giving a seminar on his family’s distillery. I was very impressed by his knowledge and his grappa and was looking forward to meeting him again at the distillery.  His aunt, Sabrina Marzadro,  founded the distillery in 1949 and Alessandro is the third generation to work in this family run distillery. The distillery is located in Trentino

Alessandro told us that at one time, grappa was only drunk by farm workers especially in the cold weather to give them energy before they went into the fields to work. It was a morning drink taken between the hours of 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. He made the point that grappa was only made by the farmers in Northern Italy. Southern Italy does not have a tradition of grappa because it is too warm. It is only recently with the popularity and often high prices for grappa that grappa has achieved that wineries in Southern Italy have their grape pomace (vinaccia in Italian) turned into grappa. He said the grappa was first called acqua vita, water of life, and the people of Trentino have always embraced the art of distillation.

Producing Grappa

Up until about 20 years ago all grappa was what Alessandro referred to as traditional grappa, that is, made without being aged in wood. It was clear in color and the flavor reflected the grapes that it was made from. Now many grappas are aged in new barriques and for the most part they are dark in color.  In many cases the wood flavor has taken over.

Alessandro said that grappa made from white grapes has more aromas and is easier to drink than grappa made from red grapes, although grappa made from red grapes has more taste. If you are going to introduce grappa to someone for the first time it is better to chose a grappa made from white grapes as it is easier to drink.  Alessandro said that you must start with the best raw material. Trentino makes great wines so this is not a problem. Knowledge and experience are also needed to produce a great product.

In 2005 they built a new distillery which is organized in such a way that it makes it easier to understand how grappa is made.

Alessandro said that in the distillery there are 100 days of work, 24/7 from September to December. The freshest selected pomace is distilled each day. The distillation takes place in alembics using the traditional discontinuous bain marie system (steam distillation), which is part of the Trentino culture. He said that the first part of the production called the “head” tastes bad because it contains too much methane (he said it tastes like nail polish) and is therefore discarded. The last part is called the “tail” and contains too many impurities and is also discarded. The discontinuous method produces small amounts of high quality grappa.

The alembics are handmade out of copper and are excellent conductors of heat. Therefore the particular fragrances and aromas of the pomace (a solid raw material-grape skins) are enhanced to their maximum. In order to keep everything uniform, the whole system is computerized.

The pomace waiting to be made into grappa

Alessandro pointed out that the continuous process of grappa production in giant stills produces large amounts of grappa. He said that this type of production, which he does not use, produces commercial grappa that is not of a very good quality.

After distillation the traditional grappa is left alone. The grappa that is to be aged is placed in barrels of different sizes ranging from 225 liter barriques to 1,500 liter barrels, and even larger.  Alessandro pointed out two of the biggest barrels I have ever seen in any winery or distillery.

The barrels are made different types of toasted wood, including oak, acacia, cherry and ash. Alessandro said they use wood from all over the world.  Some new barrels are from a barrel maker who also produces barrels used for balsamic vinegar. They also have barrels that were used to age port.

The Grappa

Grappa Anfora Grappa aged in Terracotta.

Amphorae made from a blend of different types of clay from the Tuscan towns of Montelupo and Impruneta are also used for aging some of the grappa. This type of aging achieves the micro-oxygenation which is twice what you would find using barrels.

This type of grappa ages 10 months in 300 liter amphorae.  Alessandro said it enriches the Grappa’s elegance and softness, giving the characteristics of aging with out the classic flavor of wood. It is made from a blend of the pomace from grapes indigenous to the Trentino region: 80% Marzemino and Merlot and 20% Chardonnay, Müller Thurgau and Moscato.

Grappa Moscato in Purezza 100% Moscato. Carefully selected marc from Moscato grapes from the areas of Vallagarina in the municipalities of Calliano and Besenello. Distillation is carried out in a bagnomaria, bain marie or steam pot still, typical of Trentino. This is a full soft, elegant and aromatic grappa with notes of the Moscato grape.

Grappa Invecchiata Morbido Barrique “La Trentina” made from the marc of the Moscato, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer grapes. It is aged for several months in barrels previously used for aging Le Ciciotto Luna Stravecchia Grappa.   Alessandro described this grappa as aromatic, gentle, soft, delicate and captivating.

Gewurztraimer “Giare” 100% Gewurztraminer. The mark is distilled in a bagnomaria still. Aging is for 36 months in 1000 liter oak barrels. This grappa has a very light tinge of color from the barrel aging. It is very aromatic, intense and delicate at the same time with all the aromas of the Gewurztraminer grape.

Le Diciotto Lune Riserva Botte Porto   Alessandro said that this was a second special edition of the Grappa Stravecchia. Riserva Botte Porto comes from an additional aging period of 18 months, in a limited number of selected barrels previously used to age Port wine. This extra refinement highlights the sharper Grappa-wood contrasts and the Port barrels add a fruity scent. It is aged for 36 months: 18 in small barrels made of different woods and 18 months in Port barrels. Made from the skins of 70% Marzemino, Teroldego, and Merlot and 30% Chardonnay and Muscat. There is some controversy among the producers over putting the word Porto on the label. This an intense and fruity grappa.

Espressioni Aromatica Alessandro said the barrel aging is part of a continuous effort to enhance the results achieved by careful distillation. Espression by Andrea Marzadro, the master distiller,ly contains the best results achieved in the aging room for the year. It is crafted by individually distilling the marc from Gewürztraminer and Müller Thurgau in a bagnomaria and blending them before aging. It ages for 4 years in 500 liter oak barrels. The grappa is aromatic, fruity and smooth with a hint of wood.

Affina- Riserva Ciliegio made from the must of Lagrein and Pinot Noir grapes, which are gently pressed and then distilled in a bagnomaria. The resulting grappa is aged for 10 years in small cherry barrels. The wood used to make the barrels (prunus cerasus) is aged for at least 26 months, while the curvature of the staves is achieved using the steam bending method combined with a light toasting. It is soft, elegant and complex.

As I was at our first meeting, I was once again very impressed with Alessandro Marzadro and with his grappa.


Filed under Grappa, Hello Grappa, Marzardo Distillery, Uncategorized

Grappa Cocktails and Grappa Smoked

I like grappa. I often drink it after a meal as a way to relax and to help me to digest. Sometimes I put a little in my espresso, for what Italians call caffè corretto. I drizzle grappa on my lemon granita and other ices and pour it over fruit salad and cake.

Michele often cooks with grappa. A number of years ago Michele and I wrote an article for Gourmet Magazine called “Cooking with Grappa.” Grappa with chocolate is a great combination. The grappa chocolate cake appeared on the cover of the magazine along with a citrus fruit salad. She also included recipes for quails with grappa, pasta with shrimp and grappa, and so on.

Last year we were invited to participate in a choice of two grappa press trips organized by Hello Grappa. On tour A we would visit two distilleries and on tour B there were seven distilleries. Because of our schedule we could only go on tour A. We visited one distillery in Tuscany and one in Piedmont. It was a wonderful trip, very well organized, and we enjoyed tasting, drinking and learning about grappa. You can read more about it at Hello Grappa

This year we participated in Tour B and we visited 6 distilleries:

Umberto Bonollo – Conselve and Mestrino (Trento)     Bottega – Bibano di Godega (Veneto)

Bepi Tosolini – Udine (Friuli Venezia Giulia)                  Castagner -Treviso (Trento)

Marzadre – Nogaredo (Trento)                                             Bertagnolli – Mezzocorona (Trento)

These are all family run distilleries, some going back as far as 4 generations.  As part of an effort to introduce grappa to a new audience, the producers on this tour emphasized aged grappa and grappa cocktails.  In this article I will talk about the grappa cocktails that we sampled.

Grappa Cocktails

At lunch in Padua with Elvio Bonollo from the Bonollo distillery we tried a couple of aperitifs made with grappa Gra’it.

This is a clear grappa aged in large Slavonian oak casks with just a hint of the wood. It was especially made for mixed drinks and was a “lighter style grappa,” we were told. It is made from the skins of seven different grapes: Prosecco (Glera), Moscato d’Asti, Nebbiolo (Barolo), Nero d Avola, Corvina (Amarone), Sangiovese (Brunello) and Aglianco (Taurasi.

Elvio Bonollo said they chose the 7 best varieties to produce this grappa and unite them into one perfect blend.


30 ML/ 1 OZ Gra’it

90 ml/3 OZ Tonic Water

Garnish: fresh thyme


Fill the glass with ice. Add the Gra’it Grappa

and the tonic. Stir and garnish with fresh thyme before serving.


30 ML/ 1 OZ Gra’it

90 ml/3 OZ Pink Grapefruit Soda

Garnish: Pink Grapefruit Peel


Fill the glass with ice

Add the Gra’it Grappa followed by the

Pink Grapefruit Soda

Stir and garnish with grapefruit peels before serving

We enjoyed these before lunch on a warm day sitting outside in a picturesque square in Padua–Perfect!

At the Castagner distillery Giulia Castagner the daughter of the owner Roberto Castagner made us a cocktail to taste using their Casta Grappa. This grappa is made from 85% Glera grapes, which are white grapes used to make Prosecco, and it is 40 proof.  Giulia said the grappa is distilled 5 times to insure purity and is specially formulated for cocktails.

Giulia also said that the grappa they send to the US is much lighter and smoother than the ones they sell in Italy.


1/3 Casta

1/3 sweet vermouth

1/3 Campari

twist of lemon peel


Combine the ingredients over ice and stir.

One evening before dinner we went to the town of Conlgliano to taste cocktails made with grappa at a popular wine bar called DRY made with Alexander Prosecco Grappa by Bottega, which also produces Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC.


90 ml Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC

90 ml Alexander Prosecco Grappa

4 orange slices

4 lemon slices

15 grams brown sugar

Basil Leaves

Ice cubes

Muddle brown sugar, 3 lemon and 3 orange slices and 4 basil leaves in a glass. Add the Alexander Prosecco Grappa and stir well.

Add ice and Bottega Gold Prosecco DOC and stir. Garnish with remaining lemon and orange slices and a sprig of basil.


30 ml Alexander Prosecco Grappa

20 ml lemon juice

20 ml sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Alexander Grappa Prosecco is made from the skins of the Glera grape. The grappa is produced during three distillation phases with different temperatures in traditional copper alembics – bain-marie –with indirect heating. The grappa is remains is steel tanks for almost 6 months before it is bottled. This is a grappa that can be enjoyed by itself in small sips.


Created and prepared by bartender Paolo Baldan

In a glass, blend 10 drops of ginger tincture with 1,5 oz of Alexander Grappa di Prosecco. Top with Cordial Lime, stir and serve.

Which was my favorite? For me, the choice is easy. I like a simple Grappa and Orange Juice:

Combine fresh orange juice with 2 to 3 ounces of grappa in a tall glass. Do not add ice. Great way to start the day!

At the Bepi Tosolini we tasted “Grappa Smoked.”  Lisa Tosolini, granddaughter of the owner, told us that this grappa is distilled by the traditional method with bain marie pot still.  This grappa is made from Friulian red grape skins and then aged in French oak barriques. The oak casks have gone through  a toasting process  with Kentucky tobacco leaves. This is a dry and intense  smoked grappa which tasted like  an aged single malt whiskey. This was a first for me and another new twist to what is being done with grappa.





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Filed under Grappa, Hello Grappa

Enjoying Rome

Michele and I have been to Rome four times this year and every time we go we discover something new and interesting as we walk, eat and drink.

Crossing the bridge

I Claudius

The Ghetto 

Pasta all’Amatriciana At Checchino dal 1887- my favorite

Lunch with Daniele Cernilli (Doctor Wine) at Checchino 1887

Spaghetti ai Moscardini, a favorite of Michele at I Due Ladroni

Carciofi alla Giudia at Da Romolo alla Mole Adriano

The Furore 2016-perfect wine with seafood at  I Due Ladroni

Falanghina always ready to drink and enjoy

Daniele called this a “Great Wine”

A light lunch At L’ Angolo Di Vino

Speaking with the owner Massimo Crippa about Wineand aged Grappa

Great way to end our stay in Rome and leave for the Hello Grappa  tour.















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Filed under Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Rome, Uncategorized

With Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara Winery at Il Gattopardo NYC

I have known Illaria Petitto, Managing Director of the Donnachiara Winery for some time and have tasted the wines in NYC many times. I also have visited the winery in Campania a few times. It is always a treat to taste these wines and when the host restaurant is Il Gattppardo the combination could not be better. This is a event I could not miss.

Ilarai Petitto

Ilaria spoke about the winery. She said the winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino. The modern winery was completed in 2005 but the vineyards have been in the family for over 150 years. The consulting oenologist at this time is the legendary Riccardo Cotarella. It is the philosophy of the winery to preserve the traditional grape varieties of the  local territory and to keep the typical character of the wines from  being  lost to the standardization of the wines on the market today. They also follow “Misura CE n.1257/99 – “Produzione , integrata della Regione Campania” limiting the use of some active ingredients that are harmful to the environment.

The White Wines

 Benevento Falanghina IGT “Resilienza” 2016 100% Falanghina. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest is the first half of October. Only the best grapes are selected, harvest is manual and takes place during the coolest hours of the day. There are 2,500 vines per hectare and the grapes were picked at the height of maturity. Illara said cryomaceration is at 42-46 degrees F in order to preserve the aromas, prevent oxidation and enhance the typical characteristics of the varieties. Soft pressing fermentation is at 57-60 °F in stainless steel tanks for about 15 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in the bottle for many months before release. This a a wonderful food wine with good fruit, citrus aromas and flavors, and notes of pear and apricot. It has good acidity and a lasting finish.

Ed Mc Carthy co- author of the Wine for Dummies books said that it was the best Falanghina he had ever tasted.

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2017 100% Fiano. The soil is chalky clay and there are 4,400 plants per hectare.  The vines are guyot trained and the harvest is the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes that are quickly cooled to 50F for 4 to 6 hours. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a delicate and elegant wine with hints of almonds, floral notes and citrus fruit. It is a real pleasure to drink.

This grape was brought to Campania by ancient Greeks. The Romans called it vitis apiana – the Latin root for bees is apiana. Even today bees are attracted to the Fiano grape and Ilaria said you can see the honey bees in the vineyards in Montefalcione.

Greco di Tufo DOCG 2017 100% Greco The soil is tufaceous, training system is guyot, there are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the second half of October. A soft pressing of selected grapes takes place and after that a cold decanting of the must. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is an elegant wine with good structure with hints of pear, apricot, citrus and a touch of pineapple. Like the Fiano, this is a wine that can age for 15 years or more. It is one of my favorites. Both the Fiano and the Greco are wines that can age.

With the white wine we had: Cavatelli di grano saraceno ai frutti di mare.

The Red Wines

Campania Aglianico IGT 2016 made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place in the first half of November. Malolatic fermentation takes place in barriques for 3 months. Ilaria said this is a fresh and pleasant wine due to a small number of “follature” and to a short period of maceration on the skins it is possible to produce a wine that is elegant, warm and perfect with many different foods. The wine is fruity with hints of blackberries, strawberries and a touch of toast.

Irpinia Agianico DOC 2015 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first two weeks in November. Fermentation takes place at 68 to 71 F in stainless steel tanks for 15 days. Maturation is on the skins for 10 days. Malolactic fermentation is in barriques. The wine is full and complex with hints of prune, berries and spice. This was one of the Top 100 Wines this year in the Wine Spectator. 

Taurasi DOCG 2013 100% Aglianico Manual harvest. This wine was vinified like the one above. It is a well structured wine with hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and coffee notes.

Taurasi Riserva 2012 DOCG made from 100% Aglianico The soil is clay, training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first half of November. This one is produced only in the best vintages. There is manual grape picking, a careful cluster selection followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Maturation is on the skins for 20 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques. This is a full intense wine with hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and coffee notes. It is on its way to becoming a great wine with a little more bottle age.

In 2012 Cotarella was not the consulting oenologist.

With the red wine we had: Carrè d’agnello alle erbe aromatiche served with broccoli rabe and a potato croquette.

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Filed under Aglianico, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Taurasi, Uncategorized

Drinking and Eating with Daniele Cernilli (Doctor Wine)

Michele and I spent a few days in Rome before going on a grappa press tour with “Hello Grappa” along with our friend, wine writer and grappa lover, Tom Maresca.

I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in Rome — Checchino dal 1887 — and Tom agreed. We invited Daniele Cernilli (Checchino is his favorite restaurant) and his wife Marina Thompson.

Daniele Cernilli

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, and Marina have been friends for many years. We have tasted a lot of wine together both here and in Rome. Daniele is true Roman, a Romano de Roma as the expression goes. He is one of the most important men in Italian wine and has been a wine critic for many years. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and for 24 years was the editor of Gambero Rosso-Slow Food Wine Guide. Daniele was the inventor of the now famous “Three Glasses” classification for Italian wines. Currently, he has is own web-magazine called “Doctor Wine” There are two versions, one English and the other Italian, and it covers both Italian and European wines. I read it regularly.

Checchino is a family run restaurant with Francesco Mariani on the floor and his brother Elio in the kitchen.  When we arrived at the restaurant, Francesco welcomed us as always.

Checchino has one of the best wine lists in Rome and Francesco is always ready to talk about his wines.  After we selected the wines Daniele presented Tom and I with copies of his Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019.


Le Vignole–Bianco del Lazio 2012 IGT Colle Picchioni made from Malvasia, Sauvignon and Trebbiano. Maceration is on the skins and the wine is aged in French barriques. The winery is located in Marino a short distance from Rome.  The wine remains  on the lees for some time and has  a slightly golden color. Tom said it reminded him of a Rhone white wine and I agreed.

Stilema 2015 Mastroberadino made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. 10% of the wine is fermented in barriques. This is Daniele’s description of the wine in his book: “Typical notes of flint, then fresh almonds, wild herbs, elegant and extremely clear aromas. Agile and savory taste dominated by a magical freshness that gives elegance and drinkability to the wine. Smooth and long persistence. Great Wine.”

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1982Paola 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 wine wAS aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1982 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as the 1983 I had the last time we were here.

Barolo 2010 DOCG Pio Cesare made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes are from family owned vineyards in Serralunga, Grinzane Cavour, La Mora and Barolo. Vinification is in stainless steel and skin contact and maceration is between 25 to 30 days. The wine spends 3 years in large oak barrels. Daniele said I would like the wine because it was very traditional in style and he was right.

After lunch, Daniele invited Tom and I to meet him at his favorite wine bar Il Goccetto that night to taste some wine.  Here is what we drank:

Franciacorta Brut NV Mosnel Metodo Classico made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Noir.  From the following vintages:  70% 2012, 20% 2011 and 10% 2010.   30% was fermented in wood and the wine was on the lees for 40 months. Dosage, Brut 3.5 g/l and disgorged in Jul 2016. The wine had nice fruit with hints of white flower and peach.

Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige DOC Terlan made from 100% Pinot Bianco from vineyards at 500 to 900 meters, with a south, southwest exposure. The soil is sandy porphyric gravel. The grapes are hand harvested and a gentle pressing of the whole cluster and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation takes place. Slow fermentation at a controlled temperature is in big oak barrels of 30HL. Malolactic fermentation follows and the wine ages on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The wine has hints of wild flowers, pear and honey with a touch of almonds and hazelnuts.

It is always interesting to taste and drink wine with Daniele because he comes up with wines and producers which I have not had before. The 3 whites and the Brut were all new for me.


Filed under Barolo, Checchino dal 1887, Colle Picchioni, Daniele Cernilli, Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine, Franciacorta Brut, Mastroberardino, Mosnel Franciacorta, Pinot Bianco, Pio Cesare, Tetlan Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva, Uncategorized