Monthly Archives: December 2019

Another Wonderful Christmas Dinner with Tom & Diane

It has become a tradition  now  for a number of years that Michele and I trade holiday meals with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow.  Tom is a wine and food writer and Diane is a food writer and they both have excellent blogs.  We do Thanksgiving and they do Christmas.

As always we started with Champagne. Champagne Aubry Brut Premier Cru NV Aubry Fils made from 55% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 5% Arbanne and Petit Meslier ad Fromenteau. The assemblage is 50% base with 50% perpetual reserve dating back to 1998. The vineyard/ village: Jouy-les-Reims and Villadommange 1er Cru. It has hints of white flowers, green apple, lemon and a hint of toast.

With the Champagne we had  two little pastries, gougeres  flavored  with  prosciutto  and  cheese  and  pastry  pinwheels  filled  with  liver  pate.

Coullee de Serrant 2003 Nicolas Joly made from 100% Chenin Blanc from a seven hectare vineyard from old vines located on very steep slopes dominating the Loire Valley. Cultivation is by horse or hand. The grape harvest is done 5 times over a 3 to 4 week period to obtain the most colored, mature and the most grapes marked by botrytis. The wine is aged in 500 liter barrels, with never more than 5% new wood. The winery is biodynamic. The wine is bottled with a light filtration, no fining and a low amount of sulfur. The wine was showing its age but very drinkable with hints of passion fruit and honey.

With the white wine we had  baked crepes  filled  with bechamel,  gruyere  and  ham.  

Domaine Henri Georges Nuits St Georges 2003 made from 100% Pinot Noir. This is a complex wine with hints of dark red fruit, plum and blueberries, it was drinking very well and showing no signs of decline.

With this wine we had  a prime  rib roast which  was  perfectly  cooked.

The  beef  was  accompanied  by  green  beans  with  onions  and  a shiitake  and  potato  gratin.

Barolo 1989 “ Cannubi” Prunotto made from 100% Nebbiolo. !989 was a exceptional vintage for Barolo. The legendary Beppe Cola made this wine before he sold the winery to Antinori. This is classic Barolo at its best with hints of cherry, blueberry, licorice, and a touch of spice. A great wine in a great year!

A variety of cheeses to finish the wine.


The Chocolate Grappa Cake Michele brought for our dessert was a recipe that she had developed for an article in Gourmet Magazine some years ago.  Diane supplied the delicious cookies, peanut butter, chocolate chip and nut snowballs.

It was another wonderful holiday meal.  I hope you all ate and drank as well as we did.  Happy New Year!


Filed under Barolo, Burgundy, Champagne Aubry, Coullee de Serrant - Nicolas Joly, Lorie, Nuits st Georges Henri Georges, Prunotto Barolo Cannubi 1989, Tom & Diane, Tom and Diane, Uncategorized

Prestige Cuvées: Special Champagne for the New Year

Last Monday I wrote about the first 10 Champagnes Ed Mc Carthy (Champagne for Dummies) spoke about for the Wine Media Guild’s tasting and lunch at Il Gattopardo in NYC. The next ten Champagnes were all Prestige Cuvees and it was a very impressive collection.

Prestige Cuvees

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 The grapes are pressed immediately in presses located in the vineyards. The first pressing, known as the “cuvee” is followed by two more pressings known as the first and second “tallies.” Only the juice from the cuvee goes into this wine. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and about 5% of the wine is matured for a few months in 225-liter new oak casks. Prior to disgorgement the wine is aged for 9 or 10 years. This is their flagship Champagne. Ed described it as being full and rich.  It was toasty with hints of white fruit, good acidity and a long lingering finish. This has always been a favorite of mine and at $150 it is still a good buy.

Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2004 made from 100% Chardonnay-63% from Cote des Blancs and 37% from Montagne de Reims. This is the 23rd vintage of the Blanc de Blancs. It has been aged on the lees for nine years; its slight sweetness comes from a low dosage. This is an elegant Champagne with citrus flavors and aromas, a touch of brioche and a hint of hazelnuts. In magnum $150

Champagne Moet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Rose 2006 made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Harvest began on September 11 and continued for nearly three weeks. The wine is released 10 years after the vintage. May be the best Rose it has been my pleasure to drink. $335

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle #24 NV made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from 3 different vintages 2007, 2006 & 2004). 12 of the most prestigious villages supply the grapes and only the best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. The blended wine is aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for about five years. It has tiny bubbles and complex aromas and flavors that make it go very well with food. $150

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2004 made from 100% Chardonnay. First vintage was 1983; only four vintages have been made since then 1985,1990,1995 and 2004. The grapes come from 5 major Crus from the Cöte des Blancs: Oger, Mesnil-su Oger, Avize, Cramant and Vertus. This is an elegant wine with hints of lemon, almonds, citrus, toast and a touch of salted butter. Ed said that it was an excellent champagne with surprising weight and power for a Blanc de Blancs $185

Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Cristal 2008 made from  55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay with grapes from Roederer’s own vineyards, almost all of which are Grand Cru. Ed said it needs 15 years from the vintage date before it is really ready to drink and I agree with him $250

Champagne Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” 2008 made from 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay. Verzenay/Avize are the two dominant crus in the blend of eight grand crus from Clicquot’s own 100% rated Grand Cru Vineyards on the Còte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. It has hints of white peaches, apricots and brioche. It needs two or three years from release in order be at its best. $150

Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2006 Chardonnay from their Grand Cru vineyards. The remuage (riddling) is done by hand, a rarity in Champagne today. Ed felt it still needs at least 4 or 5 more years to be ready. He described it as being rich, firm and austere but also with finesse and complexity. Ed said that it was created in homage to Sir Winston Churchill mindful of the qualities he sought in his Champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. $200

Champagne Bollinger Grande Annee 2008 made from 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay. This was one of my top wines. Both Ed and I felt that it would age very well. It is intense, concentrated, rich Champagne with aromas and flavors of toasted brioche..$140

Champagne Krug Grand Cuvée 168th ed  NV made from 45/55% Pinot Noir, 15/20 Pinot Meunier and 25/35 Chardonnay–the percent depends upon the vintage. They blend about 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages and it is aged for at least 6 years in the cellars. All of their Champagnes are aged in used small oak barrels. They are all prestige cuvees made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages and are aged longer before release. The overall rating for the vineyards is 98% with Krug’s own vineyards rating 100%. As Ed said, obviously this is not just another NV Champagne. It is Michele’s favorite Champagne. $175

The following were at the event with the Champagnes they represent

Bethany Burke: Senior Vice President Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Taub Family Companies



 Améile Derrieux -Sable, Director of Marketing for Maisons & Domaines Henriot


Pamela Wittman: Founder of Millissime


All prices are approximate

To go with the Champagne we had: Fagottini Pasta filled with eggplant and butter ricotta in a Piennolo Tomato sauce for the Appetizer

and for the Entrée Hailbut in a “Guazzetto” broth with fresh water vegetables and sented with wild “Finocchiella”




Filed under Champagne, Prestige Cuvees-12/4/2019

Champagne for the Holidays with Ed “Champagne” Mc Carthy

Ed McCarthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, is an old friend.  For many years, I have had the pleasure of drinking a variety of wonderful Champagnes with him. Ed has become the Champagne expert for the Wine Media Guild and this year Ed reached new heights in his selection of Prestige Cuvees for the Wine Media Guild Champagne Lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in NYC.

There were 20 Champagnes and after tasting them, Ed said he liked them all. I had to agree with him.  He added that most of them were too young to drink though some went back to the 2000 vintage.  Here are my notes on the first 10 and will do 10 more in another blog.

The Champagne

Champagne Pol Roger “Valentin Leflaive NV Blanc de Blancs (Extra Brut; 4.5 dosage. Made from 100% Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs. Grapes from each plot of vines are vinified separately, and then the wine is delicately blended with reserve wines before being bottled and placed in the cellars in Avize to mature. The base wine is from 2010 vintage and is aged for 10 months in stainless steel (70%) and oak barrels (30%). This is an elegant wine with hints of apple, pears, brioche and citrus. Ed said this is the first release of the wine in the USA. It is a bargain at $57

Champagne G.H. Mumm RS NV Blanc de Blancs There are almost 218 hectares of vineyards rated 98%, which are mainly on the eight most renowned Grand Crus: Aÿ, Biuzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Cramant, and Mailly-Champagne. 25% of the production comes from here, 75% is from independent growers. The grapes are picked between the end of September and mid October about 100 days after the vines have flowered. As required by champagne appellation rules, picking is by hand. After pressing, the must is stored in vats for two weeks between 18°C and 20°C before alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation always takes place but is not required by the appellation rules. In the cellars, the liqueur de triage triggers a second alcoholic fermentation and the bubbles gradually form. As the bubbles form, the pressure inside the bottle increases, reaching as much as 6 bars. Ed said that in this wine there was less pressure so the bubbles were not as forceful.  It is fresh, crisp, dry, and light-bodied with nice fruit aromas and flavors and a touch of white peach. $55 This one was ready to drink.

Champagne Collet “Collection Privée” 2006 made from 75% Chardonnay from Premiers and Grands Crus villages, 20% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier. Over 60% of the wine is aged in oak barrels from Champagne for 8 years in century old limestone cellars in Ay. Made from 50% Chardonnay from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize, 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 5% Pinot Meuniers from Dizy. The dosage is 9 g/l and the wine is aged for over 6 years in the cellars. This is an elegant Champagne with hints of walnuts, brioche and citrus fruit. $65

Champagne Perrier- Joulët Belle Epoque 2012 Made from 50% Chardonnay from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize, 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 5% Pinot Meuniers from Dizy. The dosage is 9 g/l and the wine is aged for over 6 years in the cellars. The wine has citrus aromas with hints of orange and lemon peel. On the palate there were white fruit flavors and a touch of almonds. $175

Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis 2009 Produced from 65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir and 17% Pinot Meunier. This is a small house and their wines are very difficult to find in this country. The wine is fermented in 228 liter oak barrels for 6 months and spends 6 years in bottle. This is a non-vintage prestige cuvée and Ed found it to be elegant and more sophisticated and classier than some of the very good, but heavier Vintage Bruts. It has aromas and flavors of white fruit, honey and nuts. Ed described it as elegant and having intensely concentrated and complex flavors with hints of white fruit, toast and gingerbread, and a long aftertaste.$125 Ed said it was ready to drink.

Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV made from Grand Cru Chardonnay from Cramant, Le Mesnil-su-Oger, Avize and Oger all in the Côtes des Blancs grown in pure chalk soil. Vinification is in stainless steel. Maturation is on the lees longer than the 15 months required by law before it is disgorged. It has hints of toast, pear and honey, citrus with nice minerality. $65 Ed said this was the second label of Salon and ready to drink.

Champagne Piper-Heidsieck “Rare” 2006 made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from twelve 100% rated Grand Cru Villages. This needs at least 15 years from the vintage date to develop fully. It was interesting because I found aromas and flavors of spice and ginger with citrus fruit and good acidity. $165. Ed said this was  a special Champagne.

Champagne Boizel Joyau de France 2000 Made from 65% Pinot Noir 35% Chardonnay from Grands and Pemiers Cru Grapes. The wine is aged 8 months in small 3-to 8-year old barrels after primary fermentation. Aged for 15 years on its lees, this mature Champagne is toasty, with hints of yellow peach, pastry, almonds and hazelnuts. $130 Even though the wine was almost 20 yeas old Ed said it was too young.

Champagne Henriot Cuvée Hemera 2005 made only in exceptional years from a blend of Grands Crus Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in equal parts. The Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, from Chouilly, Avize and Mesnil-su-Oger. The Pinot Noir from the north of the Montagne de Reims, from Mailly Champagne, Verzy and Verzenay. The wine is aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 years. The Dosage is 5g/l. This is a full flavored wine with hints of apricot and citrus fruit. There are toasted notes and a touch of honey. Ed said it was drinking well now. $185

Champagne Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003 (magnum)  Made from 54% tPino Noir: Grands Crus 63% from Mailly and Verzenay, Premies Crus 37% from Ludes, Rilly and Chigny. 46% Chardonnay Premiers Crus 100% Trépail, Villers and Marmery. Aged on the lees for 12 years. Dosage 7.5. Disgorgement Nov 2017. This is an elegant and balanced Champagne with hints of citrus, pear, apricot, a note of hazelnut and a touch of brioche. $180 for the magnum.

With the Champagne we had:

Fagottini pasta filled with eggplant and buffalo ricotta in a Piennolo Tomato sauce

Halibut in a “Guazzetto” broth with fresh winter vegetables and scented with wild “Finocchiella”

All Champagne prices are approximate. Next time Prestige Cuvees for the New Year


Filed under Alfred Gratien, Blanc Blancs, Boizel, Bollinger Champagne, Champagne, Cristal, Cristol, Delamotte NV, Dom Perignon Rose, Grand Siecle, Henriot, Krug, Krug Champagne, La Grand e Dame, Palmer & Co., Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Uncategorized

Mandrarossa Winery “Back to the Future”

My grandfather was born in Menfi in Sicily so when I was invited to taste the wines of Mandrarossa, a winery in Menfi, I was curious to try them.

Menfi is an historic town in Southwest Sicily and Mandrarossa winery was founded in 1999. Cantine Settesoli, the largest Sicilian vine growing and wine company and the largest vineyard in Europe, owns the winery.

Stephan Moccia, export manger and Alberto

Alberto Antonini, the consulting winemaker for the winery for the past 20 years, was the speaker. He talked about the importance of soil and climate in the making of wine. Soil is the most important. Volcanic soil, clay, and especially limestone produce complex wines and Sicily is rich in all of these. Soil management and a deep root system is the key.

Alberto feels that “winemaker” wines are boring and wines should not be made for the market. Using new oak and making wines that are too concentrated makes wines that all taste alike. There should be diversity in wine. Texture, not concentration, should be the goal.

Alberto said that “Producing wine should be like making pizza margarita, simplicity is the goal making drinkable wine,” and there should be as little interference by the winemaker as possible. With organic farming we are going “back to the future’” it is really traditional farming.

At Mandrarossa they are moving away from the use of barriques, and turning to large Slavonian oak barrels which are better than French oak barrels for their wine. Concrete is better than stainless steel it keeps the wine alive. Alberto likes 5,000 liter untoasted Slavonian oak barrels for aging the wine.

He said that the reason for the use of international grapes and barriques is the lack of confidence in native grapes and the traditional methods of winemaking.

The Wines

Grillo Sicilia DOC 2018, 100% Grillo. The vineyard is on south and southeast facing hills at 262-656ft and the soil is sandy. The vines grow on vertical trellises with guyot pruning. Grapes are harvested at the end of August. Following 4 to 6 hours of cryomaceration at 41-46F, the must ferments in steel tanks for 15 to 20 days at 60-64F. The wine is aged for 4 months in steel tanks before it is bottled. The wine has citrus aromas with hints of grapefruit and basil.

Zibibbo Secco Sicilia IGT 2018,100% Zibibbo. The grapes are harvested at the end of August. Alberto said that Zibibbo grapes are usually made into dessert wine. The grapes for Mandrarossa’s wine were picked early so they would have less sugar and more acidity. The wine has hints of citrus fruit and white peaches with a touch of almond.

Bertolino Sicilia DOC 2017, 100% Grillo from the Soprano vineyard at 147 meters. The grapes are harvested the third week of August. The soil is rich in limestone. The must ferments in steel and concrete vats for 1 month at 60-64 F. Aging is in large oak barrels for 11 months. This is a crisp wine with good acidity with hints of white peach, citrus and floral notes. This was the first vintage. This was very different from the first wine, which was also made from the Grillo grape.

The white wines do not undergo malolactic fermentation.

All the grapes are hand picked and every harvested parcel is crushed and fermented separately.

Frappato Sicilia IGT 2018,100% Frappato. The grapes are grown is sandy dunes at 820ft. The grapes are harvested the second week of September. After destemming and soft pressing, the grapes are left to macerate for 6-8 days in steel tanks at 71-77F. Aging is for 4 months in stainless steel tanks and 4 months in bottle before release. This is an aromatic wine with red berry flavors and aromas with a touch of spice.

Timperosse Sicilia IGT 2018, 100% Petit Verdot. Grapes are harvested at the end of August. Maceration and fermentation occur over 4-6 days at 64-71F. The wine ages for 4 months in stainless steel tanks and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, plums and mulberries with a touch of sage.

Bonera Sicilia Doc 2018, 50% Nero d’Avola and 50% Cabernet Franc. Harvest is the first week of September. After de-stemming and crushing, the grapes are fermented using select yeasts in stainless steel for 10 days at 77F. Aging is in French barriques for 3-6 months and in bottle for months before release. The wine has hints of dried red fruit with a touch of almond.

Cartagho Sicilia DOC 2017, 100% Nero d’Avola. Ripe grapes are harvested the first week of September. After destemming and crushing, the grapes are fermented using select yeasts in stainless steel for 10 days at 72-75F. A system of racking and return and traditional pumping over takes place.

The wine undergoes post-fermentation maceration for 1 week before transferred to French barriques for a minimum of 12 months and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherries and blueberries.

Terre del Sommacco Sicilia DOC 2016. Ripe Nero d’Avola grapes are harvest the first week of September. The vineyard is at 1,017 feet and the soil is limestone. Grapes are destemmed and crushed and transferred to stainless steel tanks. Fermentation lasts for ten days. The wine spends 8 months is stainless steel and concrete vats. Aging is in large oak barrels for 19 months and 8 months in bottle before release. This a fruity wine with hints of cherries and blackberries. This is the first vintage.

There are 500 hectares of vines and over 100 growers that supply the grapes. The winery helps the growers so they will produce the best grapes. They are paid according to the quality of their grapes.

The winery uses eco friendly practices.


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Red Wine and Steak at Restaurant Il Gattopardo NYC

Last week I posted an article on the white wines of Italy represented by Riccardo Gabriele of PR Comunicare Il Vino and Luca Tommasini of WinesCom Global Consulting. This article is about the red wines we tasted at Il Gattopardo.

We had a perfectly prepared steak with the red wines and it was a perfect combination with the red wines.

Castello di Mugazzena “Gargatura” IGT Tuscana 2017 made from 100% Syrah. The soil is clayey sandy terraced alluvial deposits. Training system is unilateral spurred cordon. Manual harvest. Grapes are destemmed and sorted. The grapes are pressed and then pumped into conditioned steel tanks where it ferments at a controlled temperature. There is pumping over, punching down and delestages. At the end of the alcoholic fermentation the wine is left to mature in contact with the skins between 10 and 30 days. The wine is separated from the marc and it is pressed. Malolactic fermentation is complete two weeks after. The course lees are removed and the wine is pumped into into French oak barrels, where it ages on the lees fro 12 to 18 months. The wine has hints of blueberries, black cherry and a note of black pepper.


Barone Sergio Sicilia Nero d’Avola Rosato “Luigia” 2018 made from100% Nero d’ Avola the vines are 10 years old and are at 70 meters. Fermentation takes place without the skins. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine matures in steel for 6 to 7 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. The wine has hints of strawberry and cherry with a touch of raspberry. Next time the red wines


I Balzini Black Label Dal Colli Della Tuscana Centrale PGI 2013 (WinesCom) made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soil is of Pilocene orgin, sedimentary formations characterized by the presence of alternating strata of yellow sands and clay with a notable presence of marine fossils. Exposure is southwest with a north to south orientation of the rows. Working of the soil with a cordon de Royat training system. Manual harvest and grape selection. There is two weeks of skin contact and there is a complete malolactic fermentation. Aging is in French oak barrels for 12 to 14 months and 18 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with hints of red and black berries, a hint a spice and a touch of vanilla

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 “Canalicchio,” Franco Pacenti WinesCom made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the exposure is north-east. The soil is medium clay with a low density of vines per hectare, divided into six plots with an average age of 25 years and the training system is spurred cordon. . There is a strictly traditional vinification with prolonged maceration on the skins and long refinement in medium to large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries and mushrooms with a touch of spice and a hint of herbs.

La Regola Costa Tuscana Riserva IGT La Regola made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Red Mediterranean soil with an abundance of stones. The vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. Hand havesting of grapes with a careful selection. Manual selection of the grapes and of the berries, medium maceration and alcoholic fermentation is in natural concrete vats at a controlled temperature. After malolactic fermentation the wine spends 18 months in new French barriques made in Burgundy and at least 12 months in bottle before release.This is a fruit forward wine characteristic of Cabernet Franc with a hint of spice and vanilla.

Barolo DOCG “Ravera” 2013 Giovanni Abrigo made from 100% Nebbiolo. The soil is Tortonian in origin, made up of laminated Saint’Agata fossil marl, with clay at 400 meters. The exposure is southeast and there are 4,500 plants per hectare. The training system is espalier in the vineyards with guyot pruning. The age of the vines is between 20 and 30 years. Harvest is by hand in mid October. Separate processing of grapes picked in different parts of the vineyard. Destemming and temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation in steel tanks, pumping over and toward the end of the fermentation-delestage. The duration of the submerged cap depends of on the quality of the vintage. Drawing off and spontaneous malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 38 months of which at least 18 months is in French oak barrels of varying capacity. Blending is in stainless steel tanks and the wine is bottled in the summer and released for sale in January four years from the harvest. This is a classic Barolo with hints of cherry, tar and licorice.

Beconcini “IXE  The name is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines. In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

The IGT is Tuscany Tempranillo. This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats, maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name.

This origin of this grape variety is not known for certain. Via Franchigena was an old Roman road, which was used by pilgrims in the 17th century to make the pilgrimage to and from Santiago de Compostela (Rioja) in Spain to Rome. This road passed close to the town of San Miniato near where the winery is now located. Spanish pilgrims may have carried the Tempranillo seeds and actually sowed them in the vicinity of San Miniato as was the custom of the time. Scientists have determined that the vines were from seeds, not cuttings. Legend has it that a local priest tended the vines not knowing their origin. Not imported.

Montefalco Sagrantino 2015 Bocale made from 100% Sagrantino. The vineyard is treated with natural grass regeneration techniques (land planting), using only organic and mineral fertilizers without the use of chemical products or herbicides. Fermentation is with natural yeasts and the wine is produced without microfiltration and thermal stabilization. Manual harvest takes place the second half of October. Vinification: maceration for at least 40 days with natural enzymes. Stabilization and filtration do not take place. The wine is aged in 1,000 liter French oak barrels for 24 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and currants with a touch of spice. I was very impressed with this wine.

Tommasi Amarone Classico 2009 made from 50% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The vines are on hillside terraces; the training system is high-density guyot. The Groletta and Conca d’Oro vineyards are located in the area of classic historical Valpolicella. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in plastic boxes which hold 5/6 kg. Then they are put on wooden racks to dry where cooling breezes in the autumn and winter until January dry them. This drying period is known as the appassimento. Annalisa said that this is an active period where the grapes lose about 50% of their weight and there is a concentration of the natural sugar. The wine is aged for 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. Residual sugar is 8g/l and the alcohol is 15.50%. This is a elegant, complex and full-bodied wine that has aromas of ripe fruit with hints of cherries, dries figs, prunes and a touch of hazelnut.




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Filed under Barolo, Brunello, Italian Red Wine, IXE, Nero d'Avola, Riccardo Gabriele, sagrantino, Tommasi, Uncategorized

Tenuta Meriggio: The Wines of Irpinia

At a recent press lunch at the Leopard at Café des Artistes, I met Bruno Pizza owner of Tenuta del Meriggio in the Campania region of Italy. Susannah Gold the organizer of the event introduced me to Bruno and his daughter.

Bruno and Emilia Rita Pizza

Bruno thanked us for coming to the event and made a few opening remarks that were translated by Susannah. He said the winery was started in 2010 with Nunzia Guerriero. The winery is in Montemiletto in the province of Avellino. The appellation is Irpinia. The oenologist is the noted Carmine Valentino, who works for Massimo Alois and used to be with Donnachiara, two of my favorite wineries.

Paolo Sibillo

Also present was Paolo Sibillo, Diettore Commerciale for the winery. He was the principal speaker and I was sitting next to him and really enjoyed our conversation.

Paolo said they produce Irpinia Coda di Volpe DOC, Benevento Falanghina IGT (they buy the grapes) Fiano di Avellino DOCG, Greco Di Tufo DOCG, Irpinia Agalianico DOC and Taurasi. The winery is only 50 kilometers from the sea but they are in the mountains so he considers their wines to be mountain wines.

Aura Levis Irpinia Greco Spumante DOC Brut made from Greco 70% and 30% Code di Volpe NV Charmat method- the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank. The wine is aged for 3 years before release. The wine had a lot of small bubbles, hints of citrus fruit, peach and a touch of almond. Ed Mc Carthy, author of “Champagne for Dummies,” said he really liked the wine. Paolo said this was a new wine for them and they were very happy with the way it turned out.

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2018 made from 100% Fiano from a selection of grapes from the estate vineyards located in Agro di Montemiletto at 500 meters. The vineyards were planted from 1900 to 2000 and the exposure is southeast. The soil is a medium mixture of sand and the training system is guyot. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in steel. At the end of the fermentation process the wine remains on the lees for four months before the wine is bottled. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, peach, white flowers; a touch of almonds and good acidity. The wine was awarded the coveted Three Bicchiere from Gambero Rosso.

Fiano di Avellino Selezione Colle delle Ginestre 2018 made from 100% Fiano from the Candida vineyards. It is produced the same was as the regular but the aging is different. Total production for the wine is 3,000 liters of which 2,500 mature in stainless steel with about 12 months of batonnage while the wine is on the lees. Meanwhile 500 liters are fermented in 2 new barriques and remain there for about 12 months. After the wine is assembled, it is filtered and remains in the bottle for about 6 months. The 2018 and the 2019 will be released in the spring of 2020. This is a rounder wine with more body than the regular Fiano but still with the Fiano flavors and aromas.

Paolo said now they have two lines of wine, the regular and the Classico (Selezione).

The first course was Parmigiana di Zucchine con Scamorza.

Greco di Tufo Selezione Colle dei Lauri made from 100% Greco from estate vineyards located in Agro di Tufo at 330 meters and Santa Paolina at 420 meters. The soil is clay and the vines were planted from 1950 to 2011. The vineyard training system is guyot and typical pergola avellinese. There are 3300 to 2500 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place in mid October. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature and the wine remains on its lees for several months before it is bottled. The wine is aged the same way as the Fiano Selezione. Paolo said that because of the rich volcanic and clay soil the wines have hints of citrus fruit, pears, toasted almonds and a mineral finish. The Selezione was produced for the first time and will be released next year.  All three of the white wines will  improve with age and last for many years. 

Scialatielli di grani antichi Ai Frutti Di Mare.

Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2015 made from 100% Aglianico from estate vineyards located in Montemiletto at 500 meters and in Taurasi at 300 meters. The vineyards were planted between 2003 and 2012. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place at the end of October and the beginning of September. This is a wine with red and blackberry flavors and a hint of spice. Paolo said it should be drunk within 5 years.

Taurasi DOCG 2014 made from 100% Aglianico from estate vineyards located on the hills of Passo della Serra of Momtemiletto at 550 meters with a south-east exposure. The soil is clay and sand and the vineyard was planted in 2003. There are 4,000plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. The manual harvest takes place at the end of October and the beginning of September. After a long maturation on the skins, the wine matures for 24 to 36 months in large oak barrels and in bottle for at least one year before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of wild berries, cherries, plums and a touch of spice.


With the red wine we had Carre d’Agnello insaporito alle erbe con croquette di patate e spinaci saltati in padella

For dessert  we had Pastiera Napoletana which I ate before I remembered to take a picture!

NOTE: These are excellent wines and the winery is looking for am importer. I highly recommend the wines. For information contact Paolo Sibillo at +39 335 1046954   or Susannah Gold at




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Tasting Wine at ll Gattopardo NYC

Last month when I was in Florence, I met with Riccardo Gabriele of PR Comunicare Il Vino. I tasted a number of wines that Riccardo represents and enjoyed them all. Riccardo told me he would be in NYC in two weeks to present a tasting of more of his wines at ll Gattopardo, along with Luca Tommasini of WinesCom Global Consulting.

Luca and Gabriele

I had met Luca previously when I hosted a tasting and lunch featuring his winery Azienda Agricola Sangervasio.

At the Il Gattopardo tasting, there were: 4 whites, 1 rosato and and a number of reds.

Here are the first five wines wines and what we ate with them.

White Wines

Vermentino IGT Toscana 2018 Castello della Mugazzena (WinesCom and Comunicare) made from 75% Vermentino, 10% Viognier and 15% Malvasia. The soil is clayey sandy terraced alluvial deposits and the training system is guyot. Manual harvest. The grapes are destemmed, sorted and softly pressed. The must is cooled and pumped into a steel tank where it is decanted. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine is decanted again and placed in French oak barrels for 12 months. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. This a crisp wine with a fresh bouquet and hints of citrus fruit, herbs and a touch of flint.

An assortment of small bites were passed.

Grillo 2018 Barone Sergio “Alegre” 2018 IGT (WinesCom) Sicily made from 100% Grillo The vineyards are at 70 meters. White wine vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains in bottle for 2 to 3 months before release. Fresh and lively, with hint of tropical fruit and fragrant white flower, pineapple, ripe apricot and citrus and good acidity that lends a mouthwatering finish. =I was very impressed with this wine.

Then antipasto

Friulano 2018 La Ponca (WinesCom) made from 100% Friulano. Soil is marl and sandstone of Eocene origin know as Ponca. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, the training system is unilateral guyot and the harvest is by hand the second ten days of September. They are converting to organic production. There is a pressing of whole grapes and a cold static decanting. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place in vitrified cement and stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine remains on the lees in cement tanks for 8 months. The wine has hints of aromatic herbs, peach and pear, with a touch of bitter almonds and a long lingering finish. I was very impressed with this wine.


Pinot Grigio Ramato DOC Friuli Colli Orientali 2018Valentino Butussi (PR Vino)100% Pinot Grigio from vines planted in 1984, 1978 and 2004 from a 1.79-hectare vineyard. The soil on the hilltops is of Eocene-era stratified marl and sandstone. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place in the beginning of September when the grapes are their ripest. The berries are destemmed, and gently pressed and the must is immediately chilled. The free run juice is separated out from the second quality juice and sent to be fermented. The wine is aged for 6 months in steel and 2 to 4 months in bottle before release. This is a dry white wine with hints of citrus fruit and a note of acacia blossoms and almonds.

Barone Sergio Sicilia Nero d’Avola Rosato “Luigia” 2018 made from100% Nero d’ Avola the vines are 10 years old and are at 70 meters. Fermentation takes place without the skins. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine matures in steel for 6 to 7 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. The wine has hints of strawberry and cherry with a touch of raspberry.

The will write about the Red Wines in another blog

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Thanksgiving with Friends

For the past few years we have had Thanksgiving and we invite the same two couples. We start at 4:00 and it lasts well into the evening because of the amount of food and the number of wines.

We began with a simple appetizer of potato chips topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and chives. With it we had:

Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuveè Passation Brut NV in magnum, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. This is great Champagne and it could not have been drinking better.

Then we moved to the table where we enjoyed a warm Leek and Mascarpone Tart prepared by our friend, Diane. With it we drank:

Cerasuolo made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzza 1996 Valentini Aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry but the wine was showing its age.

With the red wines we enjoyed the main course, a classic turkey dinner. Michele doesn’t make turkey every year but this year she felt like doing the traditional menu with a hint of an Italian accent. Roasted turkey seasoned with prosciutto and rosemary, turkey gravy, sausage and cornbread stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup, and broccoli with Parmigiano Reggiano.

and my  favorite  Mostarda standing  in  for  the  cranberry  sauce

Dolcetto d’Alba 1971 Bruno Giacosa – made from 100% Dolcettto. This was amazing — a Dolcetto almost 50 years old. It was in very good condition with subtle hints of red and black fruit.

Beaujolais Morgan 2005 made from 100% Gamay from 60 year old vines. Marcel Lapierre. The vineyard is 10 ha and the soil is granitic gravel. The winery is certified organic. There is a manual harvest and then a rigorous sorting of the grapes. Only indigenous yeasts are used. Whole cluster fermentation takes place a l’ancienne ( old style), and maintained at a low temperatures for 10 to 20 days. The wine is aged on the fine lees in old Burgundy barrels-from 3rd to thirteenth passage and the wines are bottled unfiltered.

Beaujolais Morgan Cuvee Marcel Lapierre MMIX 2009 made from 100-year-old vines. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares and the soil is granitic gravel.

Both these wines are not ordinary Beaujolais and will last for a number of years. They have hints of blackberry, cassis, strawberry and touch of spice.

Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Fattoria Poggio di Sotto made from 100% Sangiovese. This is an elegant complex wine with hints of black cherry, violets and herbs with a very long finish and very pleasing after taste. It will last for many years. I had the wine for the first time a few weeks ago at San Domenico Restaurant in Imola not far from Bologna.

A bite of cheese – 30 month old Mountain Parmigiano-Reggiano that we brought home from Parma was next.

Recioto Valpolicella Valpantena Riserva Spumonte Naturale 1978 Bertani made from 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella The wine was still in good condition but most of the bubbles were gone. It is a fragrant wine with hints of plum, cherry and raspberry and went very well with the cheese course. This is only the second time that I have had this wine and I do not know if Bertani makes it any more.

An apple cream tart, also supplied by Diane (Diane Darrow-Another Year in Recipes), finished the meal.



Filed under Alfred Gratien, Bertani, Brunello, Dolcetto, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Morgan- Marcel Lapierre, Poggio di Sotto, Recioto, Thanksgiving 2019, Uncategorized, Valentini, Valpolicella