Category Archives: Abruzzo

Celebrating a Special Friends Birthday

To celebrate a friend’s birthday, and aware that he had been as diligent in social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing as we have been, Michele and I decided to prepare a special lunch for him.  The wine was provided by our friend

We started  with  a glass  of  Champagne  on  our  terrace,  which  is  currently under  construction  but  accessible.  

Champagne 2013 Pinot Meunier Grand Cru La Grande Vigne Vielles Vignes Extra Brut Suenen made from 100% Pinot Meunier from 50 year old ungrafted vines in Montigny-sur-Vesle The exposure is north west and the soil is sand and limestone. Oak barrels and turns are used for the wine making process. Also the use of an ovoid (egg shaped) concrete tun. There is spontaneous fermentation and natural malolactic fermentation and no filtration. The wine remains on the lees from 6 to 8 months. This is a very impressive bold Champagne, with hints of red fruit, brioche and honey.

Then we had pasta with lamb ragu. Michele  made  the  ragu  with  trimmings  from  a leg  of  lamb,  red  wine,  rosemary  and  the  usual  seasoning  vegetables.  The  pasta  was  mezze  maniche  by  Campofilone.

To follow we had butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary.  It was perfectly cooked, rare and juicy.

Leg of lamb with fresh  spinach  from  the  Greenmarket  and  alubia  blanca  beans from  Rancho  Gordo.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1982 Emidio Pepe 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendonne 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. 1 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. It is one of my favorite red wines and was just wonderful. It was the perfect wine  to go with the pasta and the lamb.

Dessert was a Ricotta Raspberry Cake with fresh berries and creme fraiche whipped cream.





Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Champagne, Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Suenen Champagne

Pecorino, Cerasuolo & Montepulciano at Tenuta I Fauri

On our recent press trip to the Abruzzo Region of Italy, we visited a number of wineries that produced excellent wines.

At Tenuta I Fauri, we were greeted by Valentina Di Camillo, a member of the family that owns the winery, and the Managing Director.

Valentina at the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo

The winery is located in the small town of Ari in the center of the province of Chieri, among the hills that drop down from the Maiella Mountains to the Adriatic Sea.

The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vine training system  is tendone

Valentina said she and her brother Luigi, the winemaker, inherited their passion for making wine from their father Domenico. Tenuta I Fauri is not just a brand name but represents a family dedicated to wine production for many years.

Valentina said the cellar in not very photogenic because of the old cement tanks, used by her grandfather Luigi, which have been carefully restored and preserved so they can be used once again.  There are also new stainless steel fermenters and a few wooden barrels.

Valentina had prepared a selection of foods to taste with the wine,

among them fresh fruits and vegetables.

Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2017 made from 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay calcareous and the training and pruning methods are tendone, single curtain/rows (spur training). There are 1,600/3,000 vines per hectare. Static decanting of the must takes place, followed by a soft pressing. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature and the wine is aged in stainless steel. The wine is bottled at the end of February. The wine has hints of apple and honey and a touch of mint.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC “Baldovino (Rosato) 2018 made from 100% Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. The soil is clay calcareous and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 vines per hectare. Maceration takes place inside the press and static decanting of the must and a soft pressing. Fermentation at a controlled temperature is in stainless steel vats. The wine is bottled at the end of February. This is a fruity wine with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Ottobre Rosso” 2017 DOC. The training system is single curtain tendone and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration is in concrete vats for 10/12 days followed by 9 months aging in concrete vats. The wine is bottled in June. This is a red wine with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of wild cherry and a touch of raspberry.

Spumante Brut NV made from Chardonnay and Pecorino. The soil is sandy and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 plants per hectare. Static decanting of the must followed by a soft pressing and fermentation at a controlled temperature. There is a second fermentation in an autoclave for 3 months and it is bottled in January. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with a touch of pineapple.

Both Michele and I were very impressed by the wines. We tasted the wines again at the Grand Tasting at the end of the trip and I enjoyed them again at an event in NYC.


Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Cerasuolo, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, I Fauri, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Uncategorized

Pizze Fritte and Pasta alla Chitarra — Eating in Abruzzo

by Michele Scicolone

The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. But on this visit, Charles and I were invited to Abruzzo to experience great wine and cuisine. These are some of the highlights of the food.

When we arrived at Cataldi Madonna Winery in Ofena, we were greeted by the owner’s daughter Giulia, and welcomed with an array of their wines to taste. For Charles’ report on the wines, go to Two cooks were frying small disks of dough dusted with sea salt for pizze fritte, meant to be eaten hot with the hand sliced local prosciutto.

The warmth of the bread brought out the earthy flavors of the prosciutto and an assortment of other salumi. There were also several cheeses made from sheep’s milk.

After our snack, the next stop was a walk up to the Rocca Calascio, an 11th Century fort, one of the oldest in Italy, located within the Gran Sasso National Park. Lunch followed at a rustic restaurant.

We began with a hearty bean soup topped with crisp croutons,

followed by polenta with pork ribs in a tomato sauce. The Abruzzese love spicy food and a bowl of ground dried chilies, peperoncino, was passed with each dish. We drank the wines of Cataldi Mandonna that we had tasted at the winery.

Later we visited the spectacular Zacagnini Winery. Mr. Enzo Vogliolo, the marketing director accompanied us to dinner where we began with delicate crepes, crespelle, to eat with culatello, a type of ham similar to prosciutto, made from the choicest part of the pig.

There were more delicious cheeses, accompanied by local honey and preserves.

Next came arrosticini, an icon of Abruzzese cooking, small pieces of precisely cut cubes of lamb grilled on bamboo skewers. Mr. Vogliolo  said  the meat was agnellone, from mature lambs. Though we had arrosticini on several occasions on this trip, this version was by far the best. The lamb was tender and juicy and infused with the smoky flavors of the grill. A few members of our group competed to see who could devour the most skewers.

We drank  the  Zaccagnini  Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo  and  the  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with our meal.

The next day we visited the medieval town of Pretoro and had lunch at La Torre Restaurant. There, Concetta, the owner and chef, gave us a lesson in how to make pasta alla chitarra, the classic square shaped spaghetti of Abruzzo. She is a master of the art and her tips and tricks were invaluable. “Farina, farina, farina,” she would say, tossing clouds of flour at our pasta to be sure it would not stick.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

To make it, you will need to have a chitarra to cut the pasta. It is a wooden frame strung with wires that resembles a guitar and you can purchase one on the web.

Concetta cooked and sauced our pasta with a classic lamb ragu.

We also had time to try our hands at making potato gnocchi which we ate with a green vegetable sauce. Afterward we had lamb two ways, one rolled and stuffed with spinach and cheese, and the other roasted.

We drank the Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo and the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the co-op Lunaria.



That night we had dinner on a trabocco. Fishermen traditionally used these wooden piers topped with a shed that jut far out from the shore to catch fish from. The one we visited had been converted to a restaurant.

We began with hot, crispy fritto misto wrapped in a paper cone.

Then there was a plate of cold seafood. Baked scallops came next,

followed by heaping platters of small sea snails cooked in a tomato sauce.

While some of our group were not interested in eating the snails, others couldn’t seem to get enough.

The snails were followed by rigatoni in a mixed seafood sauce, then fish fillets baked in paper thin potato slices.

We drank the Cuvé Prestige 830 and the Riseis from Agriverde.

Possibly my favorite meal of the whole trip was the one we enjoyed at Agriturismo Grappolo D’Oro.

A group of local musicians singing folk music and playing traditional instruments greeted us.

The antipasto consisted of an assortment of Abruzzese bread and focaccia, frittatas, vegetables and cheeses.

We all loved the bread “meatballs,” just like meatballs but made without meat and shaped like sausages simmered in a tomato sauce. As we watched, our hosts prepared pasta alla chitarra, but this version was made with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine, and took on a purplish color. It was topped simply with cheese and good olive oil.

Grilled plump, juicy sausages followed, some sweet and some spicy hot. We ended with bocconoti, tender individual pies filled with pastry cream accompanied by fresh cherries. There was more music and lots of wine throughout the meal.

We drank the Fenaroli Brut 36 Metodo Classico and the Ferzo Pecorino and Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo from Citra a large co-op.

Later that day we attended the grand tasting of wines from Abruzzo at Villa Estea, a beautiful palazzo overlooking the ocean. Dozens of winemakers attended and we were able to taste a variety of wines from all over the region.


Filed under Abruzzo, Uncategorized

Stefania Pepe Wines: Natural Wines at their Best

I first met Stefania Pepe many years ago at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona at the wine stand of her father Emidio Pepe. At the time I was the wine director and sommelier for i-Trulli restaurant in NYC.  The owner of I-Trulli and I liked the Pepe wines and we carried them in the restaurant.  Over the years, I would occasionally see Stefania in NYC. When I saw her 3 years ago at Vinitaly, Stefania had her own wine stand with the wines she produced. I was very impressed with her wines.

Last month Michele and I were invited on a press trip to Abruzzo.  We did not visit Stefania’s winery but I was delighted to see her at the Grand Tasting on the last day.

Stefania greeted us like old friends, and reminded us that we know each other for over 20 years.

Michele, Stefania and me

Last week Stefania was in NYC for the Wines of Abruzzo tasting.  I tasted her wines again and they were just as good as they were in Abruzzo.

The Wines of Stefania Pepe

L’Azienda Agricola Biologica Stefania Pepe is located in the commune of Torano Nuovo, Abruzzo.  There are 8 hectares of which 5.5 are covered with vines. The white grapes are crushed and pressed by feet and the red grapes are crushed and pressed by hand. The transfer of the wine is all done by gravity.

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC Biologica “Cuore di Vino” 2006 made from Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina. The vineyard is in Torano Nuovo at 240 meters, the exposure is west and the soil is clay calcareous. The training system is pergola abruzzese. The grapes are hand picked, crushed and pressed by feet and put into small concrete vats for 8 to 13 days without adding any yeast or sulphites. The wine remains in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for 5 years.  The wine is unfiltered and placed in bottles until it is ready to be released. This is an intense wine with hints of grapefruit, yellow apple, floral notes and a touch of honey.

Stefania said she follows the phases of the moon in her wine making. Her method changes according to the seasons.  For example the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation on its own during the hot weather and during the cold weather she decants the wine.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Biodiamico “Pepe Bianco” 2013 made from Trebbiano vines which are more then 30 years old. The exposure is south/east and the vineyards are at 240 meters and the training system is spalliera. The grapes are crushed by feet and fermentation takes place in cement vats for 10/18 days. The wine is decanted two times into another botte of cement and remains here until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of apple, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Stefania said using cement botti was a Pepe tradition going back four generations. Many producers in Abruzzo said they were now going back to using cement tanks for their wines.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2007. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC Controguerra 2009 made from 70% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Organic cultivated grapes selected and destemmed by hand. The wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 5 to 6 days without the addition of yeast or sulfites. There is one delastage and 2 pump overs of the juice a day. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, prunes, toasted nuts and a touch of black pepper.

Montepulciano D,Abruzzo” Colline Teramane” DOCG “Pepe Nero” Biodinamico 2006 made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast, the vines are at 240 meters and the vineyards are 15km from the sea. The training system is pergola abuzzese. The grapes are biodynamically grown, selected and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in botti (large wooden barrels) only with the skins without any additives including sulfites. The wine remains in the bottle for six months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberry, prune, cherry and a touch of almond and black pepper. I was very impressed by this wine.

This is how Stefania Pepe sums up her winemaking:  “I’m the woman in love with natural wines, I create wine only with biodynamic and organic certified grapes without using any chemicals or additives! I love to communicate and to give benefit…joy…healthier life to my customers.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Controgurra, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Stefania Pepe, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized

Return to the Cataldi Madonna Winery


Michele and I first visited the Cataldi Madonna Winery in Abruzzo about 15 years ago. I recall that it was the first time I had tasted wine made from the Pecorino grape. There was some confusion and a lot of discussion over how the Cerasuolo D’ Abruzzo, a Rosato that looked like a red wine, was produced. We looked forward to our return visit and seeing Luigi Cataldi Madonna again.

Luigi Cataldi Mondanna

Luigi Cataldi Madonna

The winery, which is about 65 acres, is located in the town of Ofena. There are 30.5 hectares of vines planted exclusively with local and traditional vines like Montepulcino, Pecprino and Trebbiano at 320 to 440 meters. The plain of Ofena is at the foothills of the only Appenine glacier on Calderone in the Gran Sasso Mountain range. This makes for a great difference between night and day temperatures. The area has been called the oven of Abruzzo.

Our host then and now was the owner of the winery Luigi Cataldi Madonna. This time his daughter Giulia assisted him. Giulia said the picture on the labels is of the statue of the Warrior of Capestrano, a symbol of ancient Abruzzo.

The Wines

Trebbiano d”Abruzzo made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from vineyards located in Mandrella and Frontone, Ofena. Mandrella is at 1,300 feet. The vines were planted in 2003 and the training system is espalier. Frontone is at 1,215 ft, the vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is pergola. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of lemon, apple, pear and almond. They called this their every day wine.

Pecorino “Giulia” Terre Aquilane IGT 100% Pecorino from vineyards in Cona, Fontone and Macerone at 380 meters. The vines were planted in 2001 and the training system is spallier. Vinifiction takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. At the end of fermentation the juice is in contact with lees and is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months. The wine has hints of grapefruit, lime and a touch of fresh herbs.

Luigi was one of the first to “rediscover“ the Pecorino grape and began replanting in 1990 and produced the first vintage in 1996. Pecorino means little sheep in Italian because the sheep liked to eat these grapes off the vine.

Pecorino “Super Giulia” 100% Pecorino. The difference between the two is Super Giulia is made from the best selection of the grapes. This is a more flavorful version than the regular Giulia with a note of passion fruit.Giulia

Both wines are named for Luigi Cataldi Madonna’s daughter, Giulia.

 Cerasuolo d’ Abuzzo Rosato made from 100% Monepulciano D’Abruzzo from vines planted in 1970 and the vineyard is at 1,250ft. The training system is pergola. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature and is aged for 3 months in stainless steel. The wine has a bright rose color. This is a fruity wine with hints cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo “Pie delle Vigna” Rosato this is the wine that caused all the confusion because it is a Rose but looks like a red wine. We did not get to taste this wine on this visit because it was all sold out. I saw it in a store on one of our stops. This wine is made by white wine vinification 85%. The problem is that the juice from the Montepulciano grape is pink. The other 15% from red vinification, the juice is in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, so the wine looks like a red wine!

They also now make another Rosato from Montepulciano grapes called “Cataldino” which is an IGT wine and is a very fruity easy drinking wine.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Malandrino” made from 100% Montepulciano d”Abruzzo the vineyards are at 1,375 ft and the vines were planted 1970-2004. The soil is clay and limestone with medium texture and rich in skeleton. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in stainless tanks and concrete vats for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberry and plum with a touch of violets.

We enjoyed visiting the winery once again and meeting the third generation of wine producers at Cataldi Madonna.

1 Comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Cataldi Mandanna winery, Cerasuolo, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized

Touring Abruzzo

After a short stay in Rome, Michele and I were headed to Abruzzo for a press trip to explore the food and wine of this beautiful region.

We arrived at the hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi in San Vito Chietino after a 3-hour bus ride from Rome. The coastline here is called the Costa dei Trabocchi.


Trabocchi are dwellings used by fishermen so they could fish in bad weather.  Made of wood, they stand in the water on long wooden legs with long poles and nets reaching out into the water.

Some of them have been turned into restaurants.

On our first night, dinner at the hotel included a very informative presentation on Abruzzo given by Davide Acerra, president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo.

Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, it is considered part of the South.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The vines are grown along vertical posts and wires to a height of about 6 feet. The vines are planted 2 meters apart in parallel rows 2 meters apart. The leaves grow over the top to form a canopy (pergola) to protect the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. The Tendone has always been the way to grow table grapes in the area and it is easier to pick the grapes without having to bend down.

The Grapes and the Wines

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

This red grape has a medium compact cluster and a conical – pyramidal shape, often winged, with an elongated grape. It ripens late which gives the wine its ruby rich color, with hints of violets, cherries, berries and liquorice.

Both and Cerasoolo but notice the difference in color

Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo is a ‘Rose” made from the Montepulciano grape. This is a rose made from the free run juice and or juice with very little skin contact and it is bright red in color. If the producer adds 15% or more of the juice that has had skin contact for a number of hours, it almost has the color of a red wine.

Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo. The vines have large leaves and long bunches. The grapes never get darker than a deep straw color because of the long leaves and the Tendone training system. Trebbiano Tuscano is also used in combination with Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but the best wines come from those made from 100% Trebbiano d”Abruzzo

Of the local varieties Pecorino, a white grape is the most popular. Pecorino an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

Sparkling wines, both Metodo Classico and Charmat, are produced from the different varieties.

Almost 80% of the wine made in Abruzzo is produced by co-ops.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

It was a three day tour and in that time we visited a number of producers, a few hill towns,  made the local specialty pasta alla chitarra, had dinner in a Trabocco

and ended with the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo at the Villa Estea Torino Di Sangero where there were over 50 producers presenting their wines.

The experience was made more enjoyable because of the other members of our group who were so congenial.

I will write more about our experiences in a future report.


Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized

Tasting the Wines of Abruzzo at Enoteca Di Palo

Rosanna di Michele cooking teacher, personal chef, and lover all things from Abruzzo invited me to a tasting of the wines of Collefrisio. Rosanna has long collaborated with this Abruzzese winery and is a promoter of the wines and food of the region.

The tasting was held at Enoteca Di Palo in NYC’s Little Italy. This is the wine store of the famous Di Palo food store, which is right next door.

Amadeo, Rosanna, Lou Di Palo

Amedeo, Rosanna, Lou Di Palo

Amedeo de Luca one of the owners of Collefrisio was there to present the wines. He said that his family has been involved in wine for 3 generations. The winery is located in the hills of Frisa in the Chieti province of Abruzzo. The winery has 35 hectare of vineyards on 3 estates: Tenuta Valle del Moro – 12 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Trebbiano; Tenuta Morrecine – 12 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Trebbiano; and Tenuta Giuliano – 11 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Pecorino.

Amadeo presented 4 wines.e9a736be-df96-4f73-914c-50f3982e53d6

Pecorino IGT Terre di Chieti 100% Pecorino Harvest takes place the last 10 days of September.Maceration is at a low temperature after removal of the grapes from the stalks and the alcohol fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a wine with citrus fruit flavors and hints of green tea and peach with nice acidity.deee3c39-1b2e-4609-ab99-56d1ad519bf7

Trebbiano  D’Abruzzo “Vignaquadra”  DOC 100% Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Harvest is the first week of September. Harvest is the first ten days in October. Aromatic wine with hints of apple, chamomile and mulberry.1b350bf1-9852-4c90-b515-3f73c014532c

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 100% Montepulciano. Traditional vinification in stainless steel, the grape skins are in contact with the juice for 12 to 20 days. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of cherry, plum and a touch of spice.70892e81-fac3-4048-a23d-3a89dd66c35f

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vignaquadra” Vinification same as above. This is a single vineyard wine that is aged for a number of months in new barriques. The wine has hints of cherry plum, fruit jam with a hint of spice and vanilla. Amedeo said that the wine needed more time to come together and be at its best.

The wines are a very good value for the money at around $20 or less.


Filed under Abruzzo, collefrisio winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized

Dinner with Lars and Karen

Dinner at Lars and Karen’s house always begins the same way.IMG_8533

Lars takes a large silver sword from its box, holds a bottle of Cuvee Aurora Rose sparkling wine in his other hand, and with one fell swoop slices the cork and the top off the bottle.IMG_8534

We watch in amazement while they fly across the yard.

Lars Leicht is the head of the Cru Artisan division of Banfi. Here are the wines he served that night. He also did most of the cooking!IMG_8540

Cuvee Aurora Rose Alta Lange 2011 DOC 100% Pinot Noir Banfi Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage) on pupitres and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.IMG_8543

Lars served this wine with an assortment of appetizers including sauteed eggplant with cherry tomatoes, a Neapolitan dish.IMG_8541

Pecorino “Cortalato” Colli Aprutini IGT 2014 100% Pecorino Cerulli Spinozzi. The vineyards are in the Colli Aprutini in Abruzzo. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation is in stainless steel, prior to malolactic fermentation and it is aged on its lees fro 5 months prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and peach with notes of apricot and orange and a touch of bitter almond on the lingering finish. I recommend this wine often and it is a true bargain at less than $18 a bottle. Enrico Cerulli has taken over the management Cerulli Spinozzi his ancestral property. I have met Enrico a number of times and am always impressed by his knowledge and passion for his wine. The consulting winemaker is Franco Bernabei, who I consider to be one of the best.IMG_8548

With it, we ate hand rolled pici pasta (like thick spaghetti) with clams and herbs.IMG_8546

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Torre Migliore” 2009 Cerulli Spinozzi made from 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo in the Colli Teramane DOCG area. The soil consists of compact layers of shale and is rich in nutrients. Selected grapes are hand harvested in small boxes. The juice is fermented on the skins for 15/18 days in oak for at least 16 months. The wine is aged for 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex intense wine with hints of ripe cherries, blackberries and a touch of clove. This wine will age and is a bargain at about $18IMG_8556

With the red wines, we ate an assortment of grilled sausages and lamb chops.

The next three red wines are from Palari owned by Salvatore Geraci.IMG_8564

Santa.Ne 2008 100% A Francisa. I asked Lars about this unusual grape and he said “As Salvatore Geraci explains it to me, a century ago they planted a French varietal in that vineyard but no longer recall what it is. The farmers simply refer to it as “the French one,” or ‘a Francisa‘ in local dialect. Some hypothesize that it could be Malbec or Petite Verdot, but in any case over the decades it has morphed into something unique to its conditions.”

The grapes are grown in soil that consists of clay (argilla) in vineyards located in Santo Briga in Messina, Sicily. The wine is aged for 14 months in new barrels of Troncais oak. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest, unfiltered for at least two more years before release. It has hints of tobacco, leather, red berries and a touch of spice.IMG_8557

Rosso Del Soprano 2011 made from 60% Nerello, 15% Nocera, 20% Nerello Capuccio, 2% Acitana, 2% Jacche and 1% Coe’e Palumba. After a soft pressing and fermentation with native yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel, the wine ages in one-year-old barrels of Troncais and Allier oak. It is then bottled and rests, unfiltered, for about another year before release. It has hints of ripe red berries and undertones of spice with a persistent finish.IMG_8566

Faro 2009 Like the Rosso Del Soprano above, this wine is made from the same indigenous grapes but with a different selection. Salvatore Geraci the owner of Palari saved the Faro DOC from extinction by taking over the 6 hectare vineyard and producing the wine. The wine is aged in new barrels of Troncais and Allier oak for at least 12 months. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest unfilited for an additional year before release. This is an elegant and complex wine with notes of ripe red fruit, spice and a touch of vanilla. It has a very long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Faro means lighthouse in Italian.IMG_8568

Brunello di Montalcino 1982  Villa Banfi 100% Sangiovese, select clones from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. The grapes are grown in stony, calcareous and well-structured soil at an altitude of 720 ft. A careful grape selection is followed by vinification with skin contact for 10-12 days. The wines are released the 5th year after the harvest. Current vintages of this wine are aged a minimum of 4 years, 2 years in oak barrels of various sizes, mainly French oak barriques and partly in Slavonian oak casks.

I do not believe the 1982 was aged in barriques and I do not believe the “clone selection” was the same back then. This is an elegant and complex wine with hints of red fruit, violets, and a touch of licorice and spice. It is showing no sign of age. A delightful Brunello.IMG_8574

Malvasia Delle Lipari 2011 100% Malvasia, Florio. The wine is produced in Malfa, on the island of Salina, archipelago of the Aeolian Islands. The soil is of volcanic origin and sandy. The vineyards are planted on the coast less the 50 meters above sea level. The grapes are hand harvested then laid on reed mats to dry in the sun for about 20 days.

The raisined grapes are gently pressed and left briefly with skin contact. The must is then drained and fermented slowly at controlled temperatures and fermentation stops naturally. The wine is aged a minimum of 5 months in 25 liter fine oak barrels. The wine has hints of raisins, dried apricots and a touch of honey

Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Banfi Brunello, Brunello, Cerulli Spinozzi, Cuvee Aurora Rose, Faro, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Malvasia delle Lipari-Florio, Rosso del Soprano, Santa.Ne, Sparkling wine, Uncategorized

The Wines of the Costa Dei Trabocchi at Cantina Frentana

Abruzzo is one of the regions of Italy I do not get to often.  For the past 10 years, the local grape growers have used the Filone system of training vines which I had never seen.  I am familiar with the traditional Tendone system used in Abruzzo, Puglia and Campania, and I knew that Cantina Frentana utilizes both these methods to train their vines.  I was very happy to accept their invitation to visit the winery to learn just how they do it.  But I was in for a surprise.  Cantina Frentana also utilizes a third method for training vines called La Pergoletta Abruzzese.

 Felice Di Biase, the sales manager, greeted us and told us the program for the week.  As we approached Cantina Frentana, I noticed a tall cement tower rising high above the winery.  Located in Rocca San Giovanni in the province of Chieti in the southern part of Abruzzo near Lanciano and close to the Adriatic Sea, Cantina Frentana is a co-op made up of 400 grower-members.  I wondered what the purpose of the tower was.  

 Entering the winery I looked up and could see that the tower is made up of glass lined cement tanks stacked one on top of the other.  The enologist Gianni Pasquale said that it is 30 meters high and the tanks were at one time used to ferment and store the wine. Now only the uppermost tanks are used for storage.

In side the tower looking up

 Cantina Frentana’s vineyards are located within the boundaries of the village of Frentana, southeast of the Apennine Mountains near the city of Lanciano in the southern part of Abruzzo.  The soil was described to me as being generally muddy and sandy.

IL Trabocchi

The coastline is called the Costa dei Trabocchi.  Trabocchi were dwellings used by fishermen so they could fish in bad weather.  Made of wood, they stand in the water on long wooden legs with long poles and nets reaching out into the water. Some have been turned into restaurants and in fact one night we had an excellent dinner in the traboccho of the co-op’s President, Carlo Romanelli.

Felice Di Biase, told me that the members (growers) are assisted throughout the entire grape growing season, right up to harvest by the co-op’s agronomist Maurizio Piucci and the Mr. Pasquale.  Only 10-15 % of the wine is bottled, and the rest is sold in bulk. The bottled wine comes from the best 100 producers and they are paid more for their grapes. I asked Mr. Di Biase who their customers were for the bulk wine and he just smiled. The Cantina produces 15 million liters of wine.  I was impressed by how knowledgeable and open everyone was.

Agronomist Maurizio Piucci under the Tendone

The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The vines are grown along vertical posts and wires to a height of about 6 feet. The vines are planted 2 meters apart in parallel rows 2 meters apart. The leaves grow over the top to form a canopy (pergola)to protect the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. The Tendone has always been the way to grow table grapes in the area and it is easier to pick the grapes without having to bend down.

Co-op President Carlo Romanelli in front of the Filone

About ten years ago another method was introduced called the Filone system. The vines are planted in rows 2 meters apart and look like big shields full of grapes and leaves. The leaves hang down and give the grapes some protection from the sun. Many feel it is not enough protection. It is easier to machine harvest with this system because of the straight line of rows. Mr. Piucci said that the Tendone is better on hilly terrain where it is more difficult to use machines.

La Pergoletta Abruzzese

The third method, called La Pergoletta Abruzzese, was devised in a collaboration between Cantina Frentana and the Consorzio Agrario e Valente Pali.  The collaborators felt there was a need to increase the number of vines per hectare and to produce what they believe to be better grapes.  The method is similar to the Tendone but with a few differences. Each plant has two shoots instead of the traditional four. The distance between the plants is less.  If I understood correctly, it is 1 meter 20 centimeters, but the distance between the rows is the same. They feel that this system lets in more light and lets out more humidity so they will get better grapes. It is only used for the Montepulciano grape. This will be the first year that wine will be made from grapes using this system. There are 3,200 plants per hectare which is more than the Tendone (which ranges from 1,100 to 2,200 vines per hectare). The top grape grower for Cantina Frentana will not change to this system.  It is more expensive because of the zinc iron that is used in the construction. Maybe the grower is waiting to see what happens, and if you are already number one, why change?

Cantina Frentana makes a few different lines of wines but the one I liked best was the Vallevo’ imported and distributed by Franco Bengasi from Wine Emporium.

Cococciola Terre di Chieti 2010 IGT 100% Cococciolo.  This is an ancient indigenous grape variety of the province of Chieti mainly grown in the area around Rocco San Giovanni. The big grape bunches are irregular in shape and some are wing-tipped. It is a grape with good acidity and good yields. In the past it was only used for blending with other grapes. The harvest takes place towards the end of September. The grapes are soft pressed and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. The first time I had this unusual white wine was at Keste Pizza &Vino in NYC and I liked it right away. There is a slight herbal and mineral character to the wine, good body with aromas and flavors of apple and citrus fruit.

Cococciolo Sparkling Brut Terre di Chieti IGT 100% Cococciolo.  Only the free run juice is used. This is an interesting sparkling wine made by the charmat method with citrus flavors and aromas and a hint of almonds.


Pecorino2010 DOC Abruzzo-Costa del Trabocchi .  The grapes are crushed and have a short period of cryo-maceration of 6-7 hours and then soft pressed. Fermentation takes place at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks and the wine is refined on the lees with periodic remontage. Special yeast is used and the wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation. This is a medium-bodied wine with citrus aromas and flavors of lime, lemon and almond. The wine may have gotten its name because the sheep (pecora) coming down from the mountains were said to eat these grapes.

Chardonnay IGT 2010 100% Chardonnay.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. This was my kind of Chardonnay — all stainless steel and no malolatic fermentation, the way I like my Chardonnay!

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2010 DOC 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.  The vines are 15-20 years old and have a North/North East exposure. The grapes are soft pressed and native yeasts are added.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in stainless steel for five months before it is bottled. It has aromas and flavors of citrus fruits and green apple with good acidity.

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC 2010. The vines are 10-15 years old with an East/South-East exposure.  Fermentation talks place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The skins are in contact with the juice for 12 hours.  This is a rosé with a very deep color. It has flavors and aromas of strawberries and cherry.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2009 DOC 100 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. The soil is muddy clay and the vines are 5-15 years old with a West/South West exposure.   After a soft pressing, fermentation takes place with the skins for 7 to 10 days depending on the vintage. Malolatic fermentation takes place in stainless steel. It has aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with a hint of prune and it should be drunk young.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2008 Costa Dei Trabocchi 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. The soil is mostly clay and the vines are 10-15 years old with a West/South-West exposure. The grapes are soft pressed and fermentation takes place in stainless steel with skin contact for 10 to 15 days depending on the vintage. The wine is aged in 500 liter barrels of Allier oak and may see some second passage barriques for 12 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of violets and black cherry with a hint of vanilla.


Filed under Abruzzo, Cantina Ferntana, Cococciola, Costa dei Trabocchi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

The Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame Annual Dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC

 As co-chair of the Wine Media Guild I look forward to this event every year. At this event the WMG  pays tribute to those wine writers who have made a great contribution with their writing to the world of wine.  The inductees into the Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame were Gerald D. Boyd, Steven Spurrier and Tom Stevenson. 

We also give scholarships to students at New York City College of Technology and Fairleigh Dickenson University for wine study. Wine Media Guild Scholarship awards for this year went to Stjepan Lukic of City Tech and Erin Rouderbush of FDU.

 Another reason I look forward to the event is because it is BYOB. Each person attending brings at least one bottle of wine. Because of the love of good wine by the members of the WMG and their invited guests, everyone wants to bring a wine that everyone else will want to taste. What makes it even more exciting is that members and guests are only too happy to share their wines with people at other tables. One of the members gave me a 1986 Chateau Figeac to taste and when another member saw this he brought over a 1949 of the same wine for me to taste!

 But I get ahead of myself.

 The dinner was held at the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. The reception was in the Grill Room and Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne 100% Chardonnay was served with a selection of hors d’oeuvres.  

 The first wine poured was a white wine Meursault 2007 100% Chardonnay from Pierre Morey.  It was very rich and full bodied with hints of tropical fruit.

The rest of the wines were all red.

 Gevery Chambertin Premier Cru La Combe Aux Monies Gallois 2002 100% Pinot Noir Domaine Dominique

The grapes are handpicked and sorted in the field and again on sorting tables in the winery. Cold fermentation is 2 to 5 days depending on the quality of the harvest. Fermentation takes place for 12-15 days depending on the year. Only natural yeasts are used. Temperature controlled mainly by remontage (crushing and pumping over) and piping.  Devatted and aged in Allier oak casks for 14 to 20 months depending on the year and appellation. This was a very good red to start with because it had typical Burgundy aromas and flavors.

Clos de Tart 2000 100% Pinot Noir Mommesson

This Grand Cru comes from18 acres of the very best slopes in the village of Saint Denis. The brown chalky soils contain a high proportion of clay particles, chalk for finesse and balance, small stones to help drainage and large flat rocks that heat up during the day and maintain a stable temperature at night. Low yield, old vines are harvested by hand and vinified in 6 separate lots. The wine is aged in new French Oak for 17 months. I did not taste the oak at all!  There is a mineral egg white fining and no filtering before the wine is bottled. This was a wine with a lot of character, with strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors and a hint of spice. It really developed in the glass. It is a wine that can be drunk now but I think it will be better with more age.

Barolo Riserva Monprivato CA’D’Morissio 1993 100% Nebbiolo Michet Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio

Monprivato vineyard is in the village of Castiglione Falletto. The harvest for the 1993 was most likely in the beginning of November. They use the traditional floating cap fermentation for 25 days. The wine is matured in medium Slovenian oak barrels for about 45 months. The wine is bottled six years after the vintage. In my opinion 1993 was an underrated year for Barolo. Most of the wines from this vintage are dinking very well right now and should last for a few more years. This is a complex, elegant wine with classic Barolo aromas and flavors: Faded rose, leather, tea, mature fruit and a hint of white truffles.

 Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 1993 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini

This is a dark full bodied wine, with deep aromas of  black and red fruit, cherry and a hint of spice. I would have never guessed that it was 18 years old. This wine has many years ahead of it.

Barolo Villero Riserva 1982 100% Nebbiolo Vietti

1982 was an excellent vintage in Barolo. It took some time for this wine to open up but once it did it had all the characteristics of a great Barolo from an excellent vintage. The wine went very well with the food.

Barbaresco 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

In my opinion 1952 was a very good vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco.  When wines are almost 60 years old, they have to show some signs of age. Both of these wines were still drinking very well. 

 Barolo 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

 Chateau Figeac 1986

They use a completely different proportion of grape varieties than anyone else in Saint-Emilion because of the fine gravelly soil. The wine is made from 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and only 30% Merlot. Someone at the table said that it was the most Medoc of the Saint-Emilions.

 Chateau Figeac 1949

This is a great wine and one could only call it youthful.  It was one of the most balanced wines I have ever tasted. It has aromas of deep red fruit and mature Cabernet Sauvignon with a great finish and aftertaste. The 1986 was showing very well but the 1947 seemed younger.

Chateau Musar 1988 Gaston Hochar (Lebanon)

After fermentation, maceration is for 2/4 weeks and the wine is aged in Bordeaux type barrels of Nevers oak for 12/15months. At the end of the second year blending takes place with the proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault varying with each vintage, the only deciding factor being taste. It is blended in the third year before being bottled and is aged in the cellar for 3/4 years. The wine is released after seven years. The grapes are grown in gravely soil with a limestone base in the Bekaa Valley. The grapes are handpicked. The wine is not fined or filtered and there are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum dose of sulfur. In April I had the 1998 which was drinking very well with nice red fruit, leather and a hint of spice. The 1988 was very well balanced with mature red fruit, and red fruit and leather in the long finish and aftertaste.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abruzzo, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Valentini, Vietti, White wine