Monthly Archives: May 2021

Dinner with Tom and Diane

It is always a pleasure to be invited to the home of Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow for dinner.  We began with Champagne.

IIMG_5112Champagne “Elegance” Vincent Couche NV made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20 % Chardonnay from 13 hectares in the Cote des Bar. The soil is clay and limestone. The Couche family picks the grapes by taste and touch. Harvest is a week later than most. Vincent Couche farms biodynamically, uses native yeast and does not add sulfur. The wine spent 5 years on the lees. This has a 2g/L dosage-the wine lets them know how much to add. The wine has hints of raspberry, red apple and a toasty richness.

With the Champagne we had

IMG_5110 2Chicken Liver Crostini

IMG_5113At the table, our first wine was:

Terre Alte Collio Orientali del Friuli  2007 Livio Felluga a blend of estate grown grapes: Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc from the vineyards in the Rosazzo zone. The soil is marl and sandstone and the training system is guyot. The bunches of grapes are carefully destemmed and left to macerate for a short period of time before crushing. The must is then allowed to settle. Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon are fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The Friulano is fermented and aged in small casks of French (no new oak is used) oak. The Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon mature in stainless steel tanks. After aging for ten months the wines are blended. The bottled wine is aged in temperature controlled binning cellars for 9 months before release. The wine has a touch of sage, hints of pear, and apricot and peach and fresh almonds.

IMG_5117 copyHomemade Trenette Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto, a perfect springtime pasta.

IMG_5118Barbaresco 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo from various vineyards in the DOCG zone. The soil is limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins. Vinification in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. There is 30 days of skin contact and pumping over 2 to 3 times a day. The wine is aged for two years i large oak barrels. The wine has hints of black raspberries, cherries, leather, tea and a hint of spice. It was showing very well and will age for a number of years. .Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy.

IMG_5121Rolled and Stuffed Flank Steak with zucchini and potatoes.  The roulade had a savory sauce, which should have been included in the photograph.  

IMG_5122Chianti Classico 2004 Volpaia made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot- vines planted 1972-2004. Light soil consisting of sandstone except for the Castellino and Santa Maria vineyards, which have clay and Montanino which is sandstone and clay. Vineyards are on slopes 397 /570 meters and the exposure is southern. There are 2,564 to 5,683 wines/hectares and the training system is guyot. The wine is aged in Slavonian casks for 12 months. A few days before I had the 2019 vintage of this wine at the Classico Classico Connection a tasting of almost 300 Chianti Classico. When I tasted the wine I knew it could age and the 2004 proves it. The wine has hints of red berries, cherry, mint, a touch of licorice and a note of violets.


IMG_5124We finished the wine with some lovely cheeses

IMG_5127 3Dessert was a delicious apple cake with Panna Cotta Gelato.

IMG_5128Tom always has a large selection of Grappa and this is one of my favorites Grappa Marolo “Dedicata Al Padre” Made from several grape pomances from the Roero hills and rests in stainless steel. It is crystal clear, full bodied, warm flavored- it other words it is GRAPPA


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Filed under Livio Felluga, Marolo Dedicata Al Padre, Produttori del Barbaresco, Vincent Couche Champagne, Volpaia

“Finally Brunello” and the Wine Media Guild

The “Finally Brunello” Tour, conducted by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino, included 3 events this year at Il Gattopardo Restaurant and I was able to attend all three.  Members of the Wine Media Guild were invited to the latest one, which included a tasting followed by lunch.IMG_4748

At the tasting luncheon, there were over 60 wines. Most were from the 2016 vintage, though a few were from the 2015 (also an excellent vintage) and there was a Rosso di Montalcino or two from the 2018 vintage.

The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino is an epic vintage. A balanced summer and autumn gave the grapes perfect ripeness. The right rains and temperatures never too high made this year one of the most important ever. I am paraphrasing one of the producers and it seems like both producers and wine writers were saying the same thing.

For more information on Brunello see: Finally Brunello

IMG_5035Banfi 2015 Poggio all’Oro Riserva made from 100% Sangiovese and only produced in great vintages. The soil is brown clay silt sediments with stones and pebbles of Calcareous origin, well structured and well drained. There is a trellising system, spurred cordon, and there are 2,100 vines per hectare. Fermentation is in temperature controlled hybrid French oak and stainless steel tanks. 70% of the wine is aged in French oak casks 60 to 90 HL and 30% in French barriques 350L for two years and 6 months. This is an elegant and complex Brunello with hints of licorice, plum, tobacco and a note of violets.

IMG_5037Capanna Riserva 2015 made from 100% Sanviovese. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the exposure is south/east. The vines are 25- 32 years old and there are 3,300 to 4,500 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand from the last week of September to the first week o October. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in oak vats at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 40 months is Slavonia oak barrels of 10/25 HL. The wine remains in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, blackberry, and plum with a balsamic note. I drank this wine with lunch.

IMG_5032Argiano 2016 made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is clay with a high level of limestone and the vines are 12 to 55 years old. The training system is spurred cordon, organic, small quantity of grapes per vine. Harvest took place during the month of September. The grapes are cold soaked prior to fermentation. Spontaneous fermentation takes place over two weeks in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally in cement tanks. The wine is aged for about 30 months in Slavonian oak barrels of 10/15/30/50HL. The wine is bottled in April/May during the most favorable moon phases. There is a long bottle aging before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, notes of aromatic herbs and a touch of spice.


Carpineto 2016 made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso and the vineyard is at 500 meters. The sedimentary soil has a galestro frame with clay accumulations dating back to the Eocene era–15 million years ago. There is a medium length steeping on the skins with temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is aged in big barrels for 3 years and in bottle for at least 6 months. The wine has hints of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and a touch of licorice and a note of vanilla.


Castello Romitorio 2016 Made from 100% Sangiovese. Vine Training is spurred cordon. The grapes are carefully selected by hand on the sorting table both before and after destemming. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with an initial time of short maceration on the skins of 15 to 20 hours. This is followed by up to 24 days of maceration at a higher controlled temperature. Separation of the skins from the must starts around day 22 once the fermentation has finished. Once the must is obtained natural malolactic fermentation is allowed to occur. The wine ages in oak for about 24 months and then in bottle for about 12 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, pomegranate with a touch of leather and a note of herbs.


Col D’ Orcia 2016 on the Sant’Angelo hill over looking the Orcia river facing south-south west at 300 meters. Particular clones of Sangiovese are used. Manual harvest with grape selection both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Fermentation is on the skins for about 18 to 20 days at a controlled temperature in 150 HL wide and shallow stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 3 years in 25-50 and 75 HL oak casks from Slavonia and Allier and 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of small ripe fruit, and plum jam with toasted and vanilla notes.

IMG_5033Castel Giocondo 2016 (Frescobaldi). Made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is galestro, clay and Pleocene sands. Manual harvest takes place with a careful selection of the grapes in the cellar. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with frequent pump-overs, during the early stages. The wine was aged in wood containers. The wine is released after five years, which includes some time in the bottle. The wine has hints of ripe red berries and floral notes with spice and balsamic undertones.


La Gerla 2016 made from Sangiovese-Brunello biotype. The vines are 25 years old and the training system is spurred cordon. There is a manual sorting of the bunches and berries in the cellar. The bunches are destemmed and the is a soft pressing of the grapes. There is prefermentative cryomaceration. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature. Maceration on the skins for about 15 days. Aging is for 24 to 36 months in oak barrels- 50 to 100HL with 2 decanting per year. The wine is in bottle for at least 6 months before release. The wine has hints of red berries, tobacco, leather, and cinnamon and notes of violets and iris.

IMG_5040Le Chiuse 2016 made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso The grapes were hand harvested the last week of September. By gravity, the grapes, which had been destalked and softly crushed, went into thermo controlled steel tanks. Fermentation using natural yeasts and maceration lasted for 22 days. The wine went into steel tanks and then in the spring into 20HL Slavonian oak barrels for 26 months. Then the wine was reassembled into large steel tanks and bottled in March 2020. The wine has hints of small fruits, blueberry, black currant and cherry with notes of spice and violet.

IMG_5050Palazzo 2016 made from 100% Sangiovese grosso. The estate is in the southeast area of Montalcino at 320 meters. The soil is mostly galestro (marl), some small areas are sandstone rocks and clay with skeletal layers. The vines are 36 years old. The grapes are hand harvested the first two weeks of October and sorted in the winery. Vinification is in concrete tanks. Spontaneous fermentation takes place without adding yeast. Maceration lasts for 24 days with delicate pumping over, all taking place under temperature control. Aging is for 40 months in Slavonian oak of 5 to 10HL and another 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red berry fruits, walnuts and spice with balsamic and floral notes.

IMG_5030Poggio Antico 2016 made from 100% Sangiovese. The average elevation is 480 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is rocky and calcareous. Harvest was from September 27 to October 12. Fermentation is for 8 to 10 days followed by 25 days of maceration. The wine is aged for 30 months in 40 HL Slavonian oak casks followed by 18 months in bottle before release. The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints geranium.

IMG_5043These are big wines, and I was very happy to have the opportunity to taste some of them with our meal.  For starters, we had Crostini of sauteed Chicken Livers with Vin Santo, Rice Balls filled with Ragu and Peas and Escarole Pie.

IMG_5047The first course was homemade ravioli with ricotta and eggplant filling and tomato and tomato sauce.

IMG_5048Grilled Rack of Lamb with roasted fingerling potatoes and sauteed spinach was the main course.IMG_5045

One of the wines I drank with lunch was the Rosso di Montalcino Collemattoni 2018. I recommend you drink the Rosso while waiting for the Brunello to be ready. Both the 2016 and the 2015 will need at least 10 before they are ready to drink.

IMG_5051The dessert was a Fruit and Cream-filled Tart with Almond Gelato.

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Filed under Brunello, IL Gattopardo-Brunello, Uncategorized

Enological License by Daniele Cernilli

When I drink the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo of Edoardo Valentini, I can never find the words to fully describe it.  I can say it has hints of this, notes of that, and undertones of something else, but I never feel as if I am doing the wine justice.  The article below, written by Daniele Cernilli, expresses my opinion of the wine perfectly.  Thank you Daniele, for giving me the words that I could not find.
by Daniele Cernilli  aka Doctor Wine  05/17/21
Montepulciano Valentini

Just as there exists poetic license, there exists “enological license” which can transform what may be technically considered an error into a trait of quality in a wine.

Everyone knows what poetic license is. William Shakespeare was a master of it, disregarding historical facts in the name of plot, inventing words or contractions to obtain an iambic pentameter rhythm to his verse and even ignoring the laws of nature to create the desired effect. In Sonnet 29, for example, he wrote:       “…and then my state, like a Lark at break of day arising from sullen Earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate“. The license he took here was that the lark is a bird that only flies short distances and flying to Heaven would be quite a hike for it.


I began thinking about enological license a few days ago when, with a group of friends, we opened some excellent bottles at the Goccetto wine bar in Rome. We had a Pinto Noir 2019 La Pinta, a Morey Saint Denis Premier Cru 2016 Domaine Dujac, a Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda 2012 Massolino and a Brunello di Montalcino 2011 Capanna. These were all splendid wines, technically well-made, very precise and representative of their respective origins. We then opened the last bottle the shop had of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016 Valentini and there was a sea change. Croce Taravella, the famous Sicilian artist, wine lover and historic Goccetto customer, declared that “this wine does not have the delicate perfection of a Raffaello and reminds me more of Tintoretto’s impetuous style”.

On a previous occasion, my dear friend and great connoisseur Silvano Prompicai defined this wine as “the greatest peasant wine in the world”. Let me explain why.

The wine we had the other day had a very intense, almost impenetrable, garnet color and showed all its 14 years. The aromas were the typical ones of black cherry with some hints of combustion, like those that develop when you make homemade jam and some of it sticks to the bottom of the pot, creating a subtle burnt note.

But it was through tasting the wine that we understood how it was on a different level than the other excellent wines we had sampled. The tannins were lively, distinct yet not aggressive. The right definition would be that they were “authentic”, grapey and with very little wood. Then there was that tad of carbonation, perhaps the product of the “remnants” of the initial malolactic fermentation in the bottle, which was so fine and composed it was hardly noticeable. This aspect may cause some rather orthodox tasters to turn up their noses but it had the same justification as Shakespearean poetic license had in obtaining the desired effect.

When I pointed this out to Edoardo Valentini, he replied: “Of course there’s a bit of carbonation. My wines are alive and so they have to breathe”.

In the end, we were all very impressed by this wine, which once again demonstrated how it was in a league of its own. This was underscored by Luciano Lombardi, AKA Vignadelmar, when he wrote about our tasting on his Facebook page. And what he said was that this wonderful wine demonstrated all the “enological license” needed, without taking anything away from science and technique, to become the stuff of poetry.

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Filed under Daniele Cernilli, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo

Passum: 2016, 1985 and 1997

Passum from Cascina Castlet is one of my favorite Barberas.  Unfortunately, Cascina Castlet wines were out of the US market for a number of years but they are once again available thanks to Michael Romano of Romano Brands. I was able to get a bottle of the 2016, the current vintage.img_2698CC

Located in Costigliole d’Asti in Piemonte, Cascina Castlet has belonged to the Borio family for generations. In 1970 Mariuccia Borio, the current owner, inherited the estate from her father and she specializes in Barbera.  As I tasted the 2016, I knew that it had been made in the traditional way and that it could age.  I was able to get bottles of the 1979 and the 1985 and I decided to compare all three vintages.


Passum Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 made from 100% Barbera which comes from long established vineyards. The grapes are hand picked in I the middle of October and rushed to the winery for semi-drying in special air conditioned, well-ventilated rooms. The duration of the drying depends on the vintage and varies from year to year. The oenologist frequently inspects the condition of the bunches and the sugar content of the grapes. The stalkless grapes are pressed and fermented in contact with the skins in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The addition of selected yeasts along with frequent remontages causes regular alcoholic fermentation over the course of 15 to 18 days. The wine is then racked and kept in ideal conditions for the completion of malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in French oak barriques and medium sized conventional vats for about a year and another 6 months or more in bottle before release. This is a complex full-bodied wine with hints of plum, red fruit jam, and a hint of vanilla. This is a wine that will age.

IMG_4881We had this with rack of lamb.

IMG_5021Passum 1985 had the same profile as the 2016. But the flavors and aromas were more developed and a little more prune-like. I had not had the 1985 in a number of years and was very happy to see that it was holding up so well.

With the 1985 we had

IMG_5014Pork spare ribs on the plate

IMG_5016In the dish

The wine was the perfect combination with the ribs

IMG_5018 2Passum 1979  This was the first time I tasted the 1979 and it had a different label. I tried two bottles. The first bottle was showing its age but was still very drinkable and we had it with pizza. The second bottle was not showing as well.

IMG_4846 2 We had pizza with the wine and it worked very well.

It is very interesting for me to taste the same wine from 3 different vintages.  I found them to be alive and very enjoyable.  It proves that Barbera is a wine that can age.


Filed under Barbera, Cascina Castlet

Celebrating with Champagne

Sometimes only Champagne will do. It was Michele’s birthday and friends invited us to their house to celebrate.

IMG_4943The Champagne was Dom Perignon 2010 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. This is an elegant and complex Champagne with hints of melon, tropical fruit, and mandarin orange with a hint of jasmine and a touch of spice.

On other recent occasions with these same friends they also shared the 2008 and the 2009 Dom Perignon. The only difference was that the 2010 has not developed any of the “brioche” aromas but it was fresh and wonderful.

IMG_4940With the Champagne we had crostini with piquillo peppers and marinated white anchovies.

A few days later, Michele and I celebrated with:

IMG_4975Krug NV Grand Cuvée 168EEM Edition made from 45/55% Pinot Noir, 15/20 Pinot Meunier and 25/35 Chardonnay–the percentage 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%.  This is a Champagne with hints of dried citrus fruit, gingerbread, hazelnuts and almonds, a note of honey and a touch of brioche. It had a very long finish and a memorable aftertaste.

IMG_4968With it we had smoked salmon with creme fraiche.

IMG_4971Sauteed soft shell crab on the pan

IMG_4972on the plate

Michele was very happy as these were two of her favorite Champagnes.


Filed under Champagne, Dom Perignon, Krug, Krug Champagne, Uncategorized

The Leopard at des Artistes

The Leopard at des Artistes is undoubtedly one of New York’s best and most beautiful restaurants.  But until recently it had not been open for lunch, which Michele and I usually prefer for dining out.   However, the restaurant’s schedule changed and The Leopard at des Artistes is now open daily for both lunch and dinner.  Michele found Chef Jordan Frosolone’s menu, whose cooking we had previously enjoyed when he was the chef at 10 Corso Como very appealing, so we arranged to meet a friend there.   It was a beautiful spring day and everyone was seated outside.  The scene was so perfect, it could have been a cafe on the Via Veneto.

IMG_4961We, however, love the inside of the restaurant where we can be surrounded by the famous murals by Howard Chandler Christy, so we asked for a table indoors and had the dining room all to ourselves.  Owner Gianfranco Sorrentino, who also is the owner of Il Gattopardo on 54th Street, stopped by to say hello.


IMG_4955Polpette di Carne-veal and beef meatballs with ricotta and parsley.  Tender meatballs in tasty tomato sauce.


IMG_4956Sformato di tartufo nero-Black truffle custard with Parmigiano-Reggiano, grilled asparagus and lemon.  Delicate custard tasting of cheese with a black truffle crust.

IMG_4957Insalata di granchino-Crabmeat, peas, croutons and Mediterranean sumac.  The flavors of spring captured on a plate.

IMG_4965Brunello di Montalcino 1990 Lisini made from 100% Sangiovese. The are 3,300 plants per hectare in the old vineyard and 5,400 plants in the newer vineyard at 300 to 350 meters. The grapes are hand harvested and a selection takes place. Fermentation and maceration is in stainless steel with skin contact for 20 t0 26 days. Aging is in large Slavonian oak barrels of 20 to 50 ha for 42 months. The wine is aged another 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. This is a traditional Brunello with hints of red and black fruit, blueberries and rasperries and a touch of violet. It was drinking extremely well.


IMG_4958Mafalde Sucamele-Braised lamb, artichokes and glazed lampascioni onions — Tender chunks of lamb in a tangy sauce with mildly bitter lampascioni, onion-like wild hyacinth bulbs.

IMG_4959Lasagna Ennese-Pork ragu – Marsala wine, Piacentinu cheese – Handmade pasta noodles layered with rich pork ragu and a saffron flavored sheep’s cheese from Sicily.

IMG_4966Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1985 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste.


IMG_4964Tiramisu– Classic mascarpone tiramisu

IMG_4962Zabalone– Zabaione al Ramandolo with mixed berries


Chocolate Mousse with Berries and Cream

IMG_4960The Leopard at des Artistes

1 West 67th St. NY, NY



Filed under Brunello, Lisini, Lungarotti, Rubesco, Uncategorized

Finally Brunello

Every year in the early winter, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino presents a tasting of Brunello called Benvenuto Brunello USA. I typically attend the one held in NYC.IMG_4748

This year because of the pandemic the event was cancelled. The Consorzio instead organized Zoom events and In March of 2021 there was a tasting of over 60 Brunellos from the 2016 vintage and a few reverses from the 2015.  A second Zoom event was held in April with 12 wines. Both events were held at restaurant Il Gattopardo in NYC.

IMG_4662This year the events are called Finally Brunello! I will attend another Brunello tasting with the Wine Media Guild again at Il Gattopardo later in May.


The production area for Brunello is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese in the town and territory of Montalcino in Tuscany.

The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle or 6 for the Riserva. Bottling must take place in the production zone. The wine is available for sale from the 1st of January of the 5th year following the harvest (6th year for the Riserva). Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold in Bordeaux-type bottles. All Brunello is DOCG.

In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 years before (even in a not so great a year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want to drink something “approachable” and ready to drink young, then drink a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.

2015 was a exceptional vintage in Brunello and was awarded 5 stars, the highest rating from the Consorzio. But many wine writers, like Kerin O’Keefe, believe 2016 was a better vintage.

Editor Kerin O’Keefe reviews all Italian wines for the Wine Enthusiast and is the author of Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines. I know Kerin for a number of years and have great respect for her knowledge of Italian wine.

The following is summarized from her article, Brunello 2016 Report: Finesse, Longevity and the Elephant in the Room.

Kerin feels that even though the 2015 got very high marks, 2016 is far superior. They are even better than the highly acclaimed 2010’s and in line with the classic vintages like 2004 and 2001. She says, “For the most part, 2016 is a Brunello lover’s dream, full of vibrant structured wines with elegance, energy and longevity.” Kerin points out that “It is difficult to generalize vintages in Montalcino.”

However …”2016 was a great year throughout the denomination. She tasted over 200 wines and found about 10% listed the alcohol at 15% to 15.5% and in actuality it may have been higher. This is to me a low percentage and what she referred to as “the elephant in the room.” She also gave Il Marroneto Madonna della Grazie, my favorite Brunello, 100 points and gave two other wines 100 points.

The Wines

IMG_4650Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Collemattoni made from 100% Sangiovese. The winery is located on a hill on the south side of the municipality of Montalcino. The less then 2 hectare Collemattoni vineyard is at Sant’Angero at 420 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare. The soil is sandy clay with fossils and marl. Removal of grape stalks takes place followed by a soft pressing and then fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration on the skins for 20/25 days with exacting technique made with delestage once a week and pumping over decreasing along the process. Aging is for a minimum of 30 months is Slavonian oak barrels of 32HL. Afterward the wine is in bottle for four months before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of black fruit, black cherry, a touch of cedar and a note of spice.

IMG_4651Brunello di Montalcino 2016 La Fiorita location Castelnuovo dell’Abate, made from 100% Sangiovese from Poggio al Sole south exposure with tufo, clay soil at 220 meters, Plan Bossolini southeast exposure with galestro at 360 meters and Giardinello south exposure with sandy clay soil at 250 meters 7 hectares in all. There are 7,000 plants per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. They follow organic agriculture practices. Harvest September 28th (PS), October 6th (PB) and October 14th (G). Fermentation is in Slavonian oak casks with pumping over and delestage for 20 days with selected yeast. The wine ages in French oak barrels of 26 and 37 HL for 24 months, in steel for 4 months and 18 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, leather, raspberry, with a hint of licorice and a note of tobacco. This may be the best Brunello they have made.

IMG_3338BrunelloBrunello di Montalcino 2016 La Mannella Cortonesi made from 100% Sangiovese from vineyards north and south-east of Montalcino. The soil is clay and sandstone. The training system is spurred cordon. The wine is aged for about 36 months in 30 HL Slavonian oak barrels and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has intense aromas of red fruit with hints of blackberry, leather, cedar and a touch of bitter almond. It has a along lingering finish.

IMG_4654Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Il Poggione near Sant’Angelo in Colle. The altitude of the vineyards is 492 to 1,475 ft. and it is mixed soil with a lot of rocks. The vines are estate grown and are at least 20 years old. Alcoholic fermentation takes place with the submerged cap technique for 15 to 20 days. The wine spends 3 years in 50 HL French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting.  It is classic traditional Brunello and will last for at least 20 more years. At $85 it was the most expensive but in my opinion worth the money.

IMG_4658 2Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Progetto “PRIME DONNE” Donatella Cinelli Colombini located in Casato facing Montalcino made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The 20-year-old vines are at 225 meters with a south-southeast exposure. The soil is Pliocene (sedimentary rock) and clay. Vinification is for 15 days with pumping over and delestages. Aging is in 5 to 7 Hl barrels, French oak for the first year and the remaineder of the time in 15 to 40 Hl barrels. The winery is organic certified (2018). The wine has hints of red berries, cherry, herbs, cedar and a touch of violets. Only women are involved in the production of this wine. This Brunello always shows very well and is a pleasure to drink

IMG_4653Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Fattoria dei Barbi The soil is marl, alberese limestone and the vines are 15 to 20 years old and at 300 to 500 meters. The exposure is South and the training system is Cortina semplice and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest took place from September 28 to October 7th. Before fermentation the grapes were subjected to a cold fermentation maceration which consists in cooling the grapes at a temperature of 16C in an environment protected by COC. Alcoholic fermentation lasts 16/17 days at a controlled temperature. After racking and malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in small to medium size oak barrels 2.5 to 15HL for the first months. It then spends two years in larger oak barrels and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of plum, blueberry with a touch of rhubarb and a note of spice. I have a long history with this wine and drank it for the first time when I was 40 years of age. It might have been the 1971 vintage. The current vintage can be drunk over the next 15 to 50 years.

IMG_4654Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Il Palazzone made from Sangiovese Grosso from 3 different vineyards in very different areas of Montalcino. They are located on the northwest slopes of Montalcino, less than 1km from the town center. The training system is balanced single spur cordon. Harvest by hand is usually the first week of October. There is a long maceration with frequent pumpovers. Fermentation is in 50HL wood cask. Traditional basket press is used. The wine is aged in large Slavonian casks. The wine has hints if ripe cherry, dark berries with balsamic notes and an undertone of violets. It has a very long finish. It is one of my favorites.

IMG_4657Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Collosorbo, South of Castelnuovo Del Abate. The soil is a medium texture. The harvest is by hand and then there is a sorting of the grapes, also by hand. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled and there is a testing of the wine twice a day before racking. The wine is aged for 36 months in medium and large French and Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for at least 6 months before release.

IMG_4769Brunello di Montlacino Ridolfi 2015-Northeast of Montalcino  This was the producer with the smallest production – only 4,900 bottles. The soil is clay and sand with many large stones and the altitude if the vineyard is 300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in truncated-conical oak vats and in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration time depends on the vintage and can last up to 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels observing the Montalcino tradition. The wine has very nice fruit with tart wild berry aromas and flavors, a hint of black cherry and a touch of spice.

IMG_4770Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Talenti-In the south by Sant’Angelo in Colle. The soil is clay and very stony. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days in steel tanks with daily pumpover. The wine is aged for 30 months in 60% Slavonia oak barrels and 40% Allier Tonneaux. The wine has red berry aromas and flavors with hints of bright cherry, raspberry, spice and a touch of tobacco.


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In Memoriam: Pio Boffa by Tom Maresca

May 1, 2021 by Tom Maresca

Below is an article on the passing of Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare wines by Tom Maresca. Like Tom, I knew Pio for almost 40 years and on a number of occasions Tom and I would visit him in Alba or see him in NYC. I remember Pio telling me that he enjoyed visiting New York because he was able to get more business done over breakfast here than in a month in Italy.  Michele and I will always remember having dinner at his home in Piedmont outside of Alba.  Many of the dishes were topped with white truffles, which we savored.  But Pio said that he was sorry we could not stay longer because the truffles would be even better in a week or two.  We were, too.

Here is my friend Tom Maresca’s tribute to Pio Cesare.  I could not express me feelings better.  

Tom’s Wine Line. 

Another melancholy post, another great loss to the Italian wine world.  Just a few weeks ago, Pio Boffa, the owner and driving force of the Pio Cesare winery, died of Covid. He was a very young and lively 66, and his totally unexpected death came as a great shock to everyone who knew him.

Some of my colleagues have already posted fine memorials of Pio, notably Alfonso Cevola and Tom Hyland, but I needed a little time to adjust to his departure. I will keep this contribution short and personal.

Pio was one of those people you couldn’t imagine ill, much less deathly ill. It had never occurred to me that I might outlive him.  He seemed to have inexhaustible founts of energy. He ran the winery with constant attention to seemingly everything. He travelled frequently (some of us thought continuously) non-stop to all parts of the world, creating or strengthening markets for Piedmont wines wherever he went. He would step off a plane from Hong Kong one evening, return to Alba in the morning, and host a tasting dinner for journalists and retailers that day, all with apparently undiminished energy and a genuine and infectious enthusiasm.

I’ve known Pio for more than 40 years. We regarded each other as friends – but then, almost everyone who dealt with Pio for more than ten minutes regarded him as a friend: he was simply that kind of guy.  He was deeply Piedmontese in character, so much so that, for instance, the Pio Cesare winery remained faithful to some no-longer-fashionable wines, like Grignolino, of which it must be the last important producer. (If you don’t know Grignolino, you should: It’s a whole other face of the Piedmont, and Pio’s version of it is lovely.)

For all that, I thought of Pio as one of the most Americanized of all the Italian producers I knew. He had a kind of directness that isn’t all that common among winemakers (or anyone else with a product to sell). I loved to interview him about vintages and cellar techniques and the sorts of things that the Consorzio and other winemakers usually gave you very careful, very guarded answers to. Pio just told you the truth as he saw it: he was a no-bullshit guy. Whether that’s typically American, typically Piedmontese, or atypical of both, I’m not sure.

Some early, formative years in California – I believe working with Robert Mondavi – influenced him importantly. He retained from that experience a life-long love of oak, which shows most clearly, I think, in his cru Barolo Ornato, of which he was very proud. For me, with my aversion for wood flavors in wine, it was a subject of frequent disagreement with Pio. He would listen to my objections patiently, and equally patiently explain to me why I was wrong. He knew exactly what he was doing with Ornato, and he believed in it passionately, and I usually saw reason (as he phrased it) enough to grant that, except for the oak notes, Ornato was indeed a superb Barolo.

For all his pride in Ornato, Pio was traditionally Piedmontese enough that the wine he probably lavished the most attention on was his classic Barolo – what others were starting to refer to as their base wine, the traditional blending of Nebbiolos from different vineyards and different communes. Not Pio, though: If you click on the label image to enlarge it, you’ll see the bottom line says e non chiamatelo “base” – and don’t call it “base.” He always insisted that it was a classic – as was he.

Addio, Pio.

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