Monthly Archives: November 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

Like most of us this year, our Thanksgiving plans were curtailed by Covid concerns.  Michele had been planning a non-traditional yet all-American menu, but when friends decided not to join us for health reasons, the elaborate menu no longer made sense.  She simplified the menu to suit just four diners.

It was just last week that I wrote that we rarely eat steak at home.  But having enjoyed that one, we decided it would be a good choice for our main course for four.

IMG_3837The Wines

IMG_3816 2We started with Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs, a classic Avize Brut. The soil is chalky marls. There is a long aging in bottle before and after disgorgement. It is an assemblage of three successive vintages from lower slope sites. It is released an average of five years after the most recent harvest in the blend. The dosage is 5g/l. Disgorged Oct. 2008. This is a complex Champagne with hints of melons, dried citrus fruits and a touch of white flowers and brioche. The role oxygen plays is very important and all of the Selosse wines have the trademark oxidation which adds more complexity to the wine. A few weeks ago at a friend’s home I attended a Zoom tasting of the wines of Anselme and Guillaume Selosse. I enjoyed the wines and was happy to taste one of them again.

IMG_3795After a stormy start, Thanksgiving afternoon was sunny and bright and we were able to begin our celebration with a festive toast outdoors on our terrace.  To go with the Champagne we had warm gougeres, parmesan cheese puffs.

IMG_3820Fiorano Bianco Vino da Tavola 1980 Azienda Agricola Boncompagni   made from 100% Semillon. My favorite red wine may just be the Fiorano Rosso (those produced before 1996).  The Bianco I always had trouble with and this bottle, while drinkable, was not showing very well.

IMG_3810Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1990 Edoardo Valentini made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is a great white wine but this bottle was showing its age and  seemed to have off aromas and flavors.

IMG_3813Meursalt-1990 “Perrieres”   Pierre Matrot made from 100% Chardonnay. I do not know how this wine was produced since the winery changed its way of making wine in 2000. This is a full-bodied white wine with hints of peach, apricot and a touch of honey. It has a wonderful finish and a long aftertaste.

The Table

IMG_3797Our first course was a chestnut soup with whipped cream and grappa, a recipe from Chef Fabio Trabocchi.  Because it was so rich and flavorful, Michele served it in small cups.  We would definitely enjoy having this soup again.

IMG_3817Mazia-Chambertin 1990 Domaine Maume made from 100% Pinot Noir from 75-year-old vines. The vineyard is .64 ha and the soil is clay limestone. There is a separate vinification of individual parcels. The clusters are 100% de-stemmed. The wine is aged for 18 to 20 months in mostly older barrels and bottled without fining or filtration. This wine was not ready to drink. It was too young and more thean half the bottle was left. Michele and I drank it for lunch the next day and it was wonderful.

IMG_3799 2Michele’s original menu included a prime rib roast, but with just two guests, she downsized the menu to two thick Angus beef strip loin steaks.  With them we had roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, as well as extra-buttery mashed potatoes.

Chianti Classico 1970 Fattoria Santa Cristina- L& P Antinori. I believe the grapes were Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo, and a small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. The wine had great color and was drinking like traditional Chianti, with hints of red fruit, cherries, blueberries, leather and a touch of violets. We all agreed it was a wonderful wine and was the wine of the evening.

Cheese course consisted of La Tur, Alta Badia and Sardinian pecorino.

IMG_3793Rather than pie, Michele made 3 Fruit Crisp, with apples, pears and cranberries, baked under a crunchy oatmeal and brown sugar topping.  The tangy fruit was complemented by the pumpkin pie and 4 flavors of ice cream supplied by our guests.


Dessert ready to be served

Chianti Classico 1960
Villa Antinori made from Sangiovese with Cannaiolo and Colorino and the white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia. They may have also used the governo method (drying 10% of the grapes). The wine was showing its age and was not drinking well.

We finished, as always, with espresso and grappa.


Filed under Antinori, Champagne Substance Jacques Selosse, Chianti Classico, Fiorano Bianco, Meursalt Pierre Matrot, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Valentini

Something to Celebrate

We don’t often eat steak at our house, but Michele had bought these two recently so we decided to make a classic meat and potatoes dinner to celebrate our first meeting — 52 years ago!


Brut Methode Traditional 2018 made from 100% Gringet, an endemic grape variety of Savoie France Domaine Belluard. The vineyard is at 450 meters and the exposure is south. The soil is chalky of the Chablais mountains: little stones. Glacier sediments: yellow marls. Hand-operate harvest. There is a very soft pressing of the grapes. Traditional vinification with alcoholic and malolactic fermentation with native bacteria and yeast. 60% of the vinification is carried out in egg-shaped concrete vat. Rough filtration on egg whites. The wine has floral notes, pleasant fruity aromas and flavors with a slight hint of minerality. The winery is located in the heart of the valley of the Arve between Geneva and Chamonix Mont-Blanc.

IMG_3782To go with the wine, some smoked salmon

IMG_3784Smoked salmon with cream cheese on pumpernickel

IMG_3770Steak in the frying pan

Potatoes ready to roast, dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper

Broccoli Rabe sauteed with garlic

The plate

Chianti Classico Riserva 1997 Terreno made from Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged for two years in oak barrels and one year in bottle before release. The wine has hints of black cherries, cooked fruit with a touch of violets and an undertone of spice.

Roasted Chestnuts

Some homemade cookies and an espresso for dessert


Filed under Domaine Belluard Brut, Terreno Chianti Classico

A Tuscan Lunch

A friend was joining us for lunch the other day and told us that he would bring a bottle of Brunello.  Michele wanted to make a dessert that she had not made in a long time and I had a bottle of Vinsanto I wanted to try, so Michele decided to make a Tuscan lunch.

IMG_3769Michele had some organic chicken livers and sauteed them with shallots.  She mashed them onto crostini and drizzled on a little balsamic vinegar.

IMG_3756The pasta was made with guanciale, dried porcini mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes topped with grated pecorino.

IMG_3757Pasta in the plate.  This is a deeply flavorful sauce that was perfect with the wine.

The chicken was spatchcocked and roasted over sliced ciabatta, which absorbed all the chicken-y juices.

To go with the chicken, Michele made green beans which she dressed in a kind of Caesar dressing with anchovy and garlic.

IMG_3762The plate 

IMG_3764Brunello di Mantalcino 1999 Lisini made from 100% Sangiovese from the estate’s massal selection. The vineyards are at 300 to 350 meters. Vinification is in glass-lined cement tanks with skin contact for 20 to 26 days. The wine is aged in 20 – 52 HL casks for 42 months, followed by 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of red and black fruit, tobacco, violets with a very pleasing finish and long after taste. The wine was drinking very well and was a perfect combination with the food.

IMG_3755Dessert was the Torta Sbrisolona, basically a giant buttery cookie filled and topped with almonds.  To eat it, you just break off a piece.

IMG_3765Vinsanto del Chianti Classico 2008 Meleto made from Sangovese, Malvasia Nera and Trebbiano Toscano. Fermentation and maturation takes place in sealed carati, traditional small barrels, of acacia and cherry wood and kept in rooms with great seasonal variations in temperature. The carati are only filled to 70% and aging lasts for 4 to 5 years. This is a deeply flavored dessert wine with hints of dried fruit, honey and apricot with a touch of spice. It seemed as if the dessert and the wine were made for each other.


Filed under Brunello, Vin Santo

Dinner by the Fireplace

Friends that live a few blocks away invited us over for dinner. They had talked about having at least part of our meal in their garden, but an outdoor heater they had ordered had not arrived.  The temperature was in the 40’s and so the plans were changed.

IMG_3740It was a chilly night so I was very happy to have dinner by the fireplace.

IMG_3733We started with a rabbit pate and cornichons from a local cheese shop.

IMG_3732There were also fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto.


We drank Veuve Clicquot Brut NV made from 56% Pinot Noir, 16% Pinot Meunier and 28% Chardonnay. This is an easy drinking Champagne, toasty with black fruit aromas and flavors.

IMG_3742For the main course there were slow cooked lamb shanks with white beans and gremolata, a recipe from Michele’s book, The Italian Slow Cooker.  Served with sauteed broccoli.

IMG_3743Rosso del Conte 1981 Tasca d’ Almerita Nero d’Avola 90% and 10% Perricone.  Production area Palermo, Sicily. The soil is fine clay slightly calcareous. It is at 650 meters with a south-west exposure. The training system is bush and espalier, with short spur pruning. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest is in October. Traditional red wine fermentation in stainless steel and maceration for 25 days. The wine is aged  in large chestnut casks and then 6 months in bottle before release. This is a very impressive wine with hints of cherries dried red fruit. herbs and a touch spice and tobacco.

25 years ago, Michele interviewed the late Marchesa Anna Tasca Lanza, whose family owns Regaleali, for an article in a wine magazine about Anna’s cooking school.  At that time, we visited the winery along with this evening’s hosts.  They had saved the Rosso del Conte so that we could have it together and drinking it  brought back many fond memories.


After the lamb, we had a salad of crisp greens with pears and walnuts.

IMG_3752And a cheese selection, including a perfect Vacherin

IMG_3751A goat cheese, and a blue.

IMG_3745Chateauneuf du Pape “Vignobles de la Lerriere” 2006 Beauchene made from 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. The terroir is a mix of galets and sandy soil. The wine is aged for 12 months in used French oak barriques. This is a medium bodied soft round wine with ripe red fruit flavors hints of raspberries and red cherries and a touch of spice. The wine has a nice aftertaste and a long finish. It was a pleasure to drink

IMG_3753Dessert wasn’t really necessary, but Michele had brought some freshly made Biscotti Regina, Sicilian sesame cookies, so that we could finish the meal on a sweet note.

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Filed under Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Regaleali, Rosso Del Conte, Uncategorized, Veuve Clicquot

In the Garden

On a recent fall weekend, we visited a friend in New Jersey.  Saturday’s weather was sunny and warm and we were able to have part of our lunch outside.  Sunday was even warmer and we had the whole meal sitting in the garden.

IMG_3721Lunch in the garden

IMG_3700An entire wheel of Tuscan Pecorino cheese inspired the first course.

IMG_3704Pecorino Cheese  cut


We ate the cheese with crostini topped with an assortment of garlicky greens, eggplant caponata and anchovies.

IMG_3716Barbera d’ Asti “Vigna Noce” 2010 Antica Azienda Agricola Trinchero  The winery belongs to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir and as little interference as possible by the winemaker. Only natural yeast is used, there is no acidification of the wine, and clarification and filtration does not take place. Chemical treatments are not used in the vineyards; copper and sulfur are used but only when it is really necessary. The wine is aged for 7 years in large chestnut barrels. This is a traditional, classic Barbera.  The winery is strictly organic.  This is a full-bodied robust wine with hints of cherries, plum, and leather, balsamic touches and a note of smoke. This is a very impressive Barbera that will last for at least another 15 years. I had the 1999 recently and it was in perfect condition.

IMG_3724Michele made sausage ragu which she tossed with mezzi rigatoni, grated pecorino and arugula.

IMG_3725Pasta in the dish

IMG_3706Barolo 1998 “Bricco Francesco” Rocche Dell’Annunziata Rocche Costamagna made from 100% Nebbiolo from the Rocche dell’Annunziata vineyard one of the historic crus of La Mora. The soil is calcareous-clayey and there are 4,800 vines per hectare Traditional vivification wit a maceration that lasts for about two weeks. The wine is aged for 24 months in 30 hl Slavonian oak barrels and the at least one year in bottle before release. This is an elegant Barolo with hints of raspberry, violets and a touch of spice.

IMG_3726The last of Michele’s precious stash of Piemontese hazelnuts went into making these brutti ma buoni, ugly but good cookies.  Not very ugly, but very very good.

IMG_3727A guest brought ice cream from a local shop which went great with the cookies.  The flavors were rum raisin and dark chocolate.


Filed under Barbera, Barbera d'Asti, Barolo, Trinchero

An Autumn Lunch


It looked like it was going to be a perfect fall weekend with temperatures reaching into the 70’s.  We began to think that it wasn’t going to last and we should spend as much time as possible out of doors, so when our friend Ernie called and asked us to come to his house for the weekend, we accepted gladly.

IMG_3675The weather on Saturday afternoon was perfect and we had the first course of our lunch sitting on the deck overlooking his garden with the trees changing into beautiful colors.  

IMG_3674 2We had a French sparkling wine made with the Champagne method. Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils “Cremant Du Jura” NV made from 57% Chardonnay, 16% Savagnin, 16% Poulsard and 11% Pinot Noir from 20 year old vines at 280 to 380 meters. The soil is gray marl and there are two meters of topsoil before hitting mother rock. Only indigenous yeast is used. Fermentation and aging is in tanks. The wine remains on the lees for 24 months. It is medium bodied, dry with good minerality, hints of citrus fruit, yeasty notes and a touch of white flowers.


With it, we had a Tuscan style Chicken Liver Pate.  


The latter part of the afternoon was getting chilly, so we moved inside.  We roasted a rack of lamb with mustard, thyme and breadcrumbs.

IMG_3684 copySauteed Potatoes were the accompaniment.


The roasted lambIMG_3689 2The plate

IMG_3679 copy

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1986 made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This is a full bodied complex wine with hints of blackberries, black cherries, leather, cassis, a note of violets and a touch of spice, with a very long finish and great aftertaste. This is a truly great wine that will last for many years.

IMG_3686We roasted some fresh chestnuts for our dessert.

IMG_3692 2And followed them with Brutti ma Buoni, Ugly but Good Cookies, made with excellent hazelnuts Michele had bought on our last trip to Rome.  

IMG_3695 copy

Afterward, I sipped a glass of Marc De Bourgogne De Chambolle – Musigny Frederic Musigny of L’Heritier Guyot, Dijon. It is the best Marc that I have ever tasted-WOW


Filed under Bordeaux, Domaine Rolet, Mouton Rothschild

Beyond the Varietal by Daniele Cernilli

Very interesting article by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine.
al di là del vitigno 2

We render justice to the uniqueness of a wine’s origin determined by a vineyard, a small subzone and not just the varietal used.

One of the poorest impressions I ever made was when, many years ago, I interviewed Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy who at the time was, aside from the owner of the winery of the same name, also the president of the Domaine de la Romaine Conti. I began a question by defining her as one of the maximum authorities on Pinot Noir and she immediately cut me off. “There’s a misunderstanding here,” she said. “Pinot Noir is made in Oregon and in New Zealand. I produce Romanée Conti, La Tache and Richebourg. And while, of course, I do use that varietal, there is a big difference, don’t you think?”. She shot me down and gave me a lesson in terroir in just a nutshell.

I often remember this incident when I find myself dealing with the origin of wines. And I also remember when Luigi Veronelli, in response to my surprise, after tasting Fiorano Semillon, which was made outside Rome using a Bordeaux varietal, told me: “Look, a varietal belongs to the area where it is planted”. This was basically the same point that Madame Leroy had made.

Further confirmation of this is often offered by Luigi Moio, a professor of enology at the University of Naples Federico II. According to him, the vast majority of traditional Italian grape varieties are “neutral”, in other words, they do not have any evident varietal characteristics, those expressed by the presence of terpenes, pyrazines or the abundant presence of thiolic substances that could, for example, be formed during vinification. At the same time, they “feel” the land and climate and can change significantly when cultivated in different areas. This does not mean that the various French varietals do not do the same, only that Italian varieties essentially draw their expressiveness from the area they are produced.

One need only consider how wines differ in different regions, even when made from the same varietal. Sicily’s Il Cometa from Planeta and Campania’s Fiano di Avellino Stilema from Mastroberardino, while both made from Fiano, seem to come from two different hemispheres. And there are thousands of similar examples. One need only to consider Barolo and Gattinara, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino, or how Sangiovese expresses itself differently in Radda as opposed to Castelnuovo Berardenga.

All things considered, we need to go beyond focusing on the varietal. We need to accept that a Barolo is not just a Nebbiolo and a Grand Cru Vosne Romanée is simply not just a Pinot Noir. We need to render justice to the uniqueness of their origin determined by a vineyard, a small subzone and not just the grape they were made from, which is undoubtedly a key part of the puzzle but not always, especially in Italy, the most important.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday Lunch with Friends

Sharing a meal and good wine with friends is always a pleasure.  A recent Sunday lunch went like this.  To begin, we had bites of mortadella, crunchy taralli with cheese and black pepper, and good olives to accompany a glass or two of white wine.


Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2010 Emidio Pepe made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. In the vineyard only sulfur and copper water are used along with biodynamic preparations. Only natural yeast is used. Feet crush the grapes and no sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed into glass lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. The wine remains there for one year and then is transferred to bottle by hand. The wine was showing some signs of oxidation with hints of citrus fruit and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

IMG_3657Michele made Ricotta Gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce from her book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.


This was just my first portion. 


Baked Polenta with Parmigiano Reggiano accompanied the main course chicken.

IMG_1483 BAC

Sauteed Broccoli with Garlic

IMG_3659Chicken with Red Wine, Olives and Herbs ready to be served

IMG_3660On the plate


Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2001  Emidio Pepe 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendone method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. One hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass-lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. The wine has deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather.  I had the 1982 a few weeks ago and the 2001 has the same profile but needs more time.


Dessert was the Buttery Apple Cake from Michele’s book, Savoring Italy.


Filed under Emidio Pepe, Uncategorized

A Taste of Campania in New York

Michele and I have always enjoyed traveling in Europe and especially Italy. At home Michele often prepares meals that we have had in Italy with recipes from her Italian cookbooks. Recently,  Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow came for dinner and Michele made a meal based on the food of Campania, one of our favorite regions, though in truth we love them all.IMG_3621

The aperitifs waiting for our guests to arrive

IMG_3638We started as usual with Champagne.  Gosset Champagne Brut Excellence made from 24% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Meunier from Ay-Chapmpagne, Chigny-les-Roses, Courmas, Cumieres, Avize, Cuis and Trepail. There is 100% malolactic fermentation. The wine spends 30 months in the cellar before it is disgorged. Dosage for the Brut is11g/L. It has hints of apricots, peaches, dried fruit and a touch of brioche.

Michele made paccheri pasta with a seafood sauce, a Neapolitan favorite.

The pasta in the dish

IMG_3639Fiano di Avellino “Vignadora 1986 Mastrobeardino made from 100% Fiano di Avellino I believe the wine was fermented in cement tanks and aged in large chestnut oak casks. The wine was showing its age and had lost most of its fruit. It was still drinkable with a note of almonds in the finish.

IMG_3633Polpettone, a large meatloaf made with beef, pork and veal, plus prosciutto, salami and provolone in the mixture, stuffed with hardcooked eggs.  This was a special occasion dish when Michele was growing up.


With the meatloaf, we had sauteed zucchini with cherry tomatoes and the last of our home grown basil.

IMG_3634The plate

IMG_3640Taurasi “Radici” 1997 Mastroberardino made from 100% Aglianico.  The vineyards for Taurasi “Radici” are located on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. The barriques were second and third passage. This is a wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.

We followed this with a cheese course, but I did not take a photo.  The selection included La Tur, 3 milk Robiola, and Alta Badia, all from Italy.

IMG_3483Monte di Grazia Rosso 2011 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, hints of red fruit, blueberries, a slight touch of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine.

IMG_3636For dessert, we had individual apple tarts with whipped cream.  Michele served the tarts on plates from our collection from the Unione Ristoranti Buon Ricordo, a sort of dining club centered in Italy.  Over the years, we have collected about a hundred of them.  


I always serve grappa when Tom comes. This is one of his favorites.  


Filed under Mastroberardino