Category Archives: Antinori

A Long Weekend with Ernie

Our apartment is being painted and our friend Ernie said we could spend the week at his home. It is always a pleasure to visit Ernie because the conversation, food and wine are always the best.

Below is just some of the wines and food that we enjoyed.


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Tomatos, Mozzarella and Basil — a classic Caprese Salad

IMG_5629 3Mortadella,  Mozzarella and Tomatoes — The cherry tomatoes were imported from our garden in Manhattan.

IMG_5633Arancini — Sicilian style rice balls from Palazzone 1960 in Wayne, New Jersey.  This pastry shop makes some of the best pastries I have had outside of Sicily. 

IMG_5656 3Prosciutto and melon

Side dishes

IMG_5659 2Asparagus with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

IMG_5619 2Roasted Sweet Peppers

 The wine 

IMG_5661 2Chianti Classico Riserva Villa Antinori Riserva 1980 L&P Antinori the wine is mostly Sangiovese with some Cannaiolo and a very small amount of Trebbiano. Some of the wine was aged in 225 liter barrels. The wine has hints of sour cherries, leather, herbs and a note of violets. It had a low shoulder but was still drinking very well.

IMG_5625 2Barbera D’Asti “Scarpa” 2010 Antica Vinicola Casa Scarpa made from 100% Barbera from Monferrato. The vineyard is at 400 meters and the soil is clay. The vines were planted in 2000 and the training system is guyot. Harvest is by hand. Fermentation and aging for 12 to 18 months in stainless steel tanks and at least 6 months in bottle before release. This is a traditional Barbera with hints of red fruit, cranberry, cherry and good acidity which makes it an excellent wine with food.


IMG_5620Ravioli stuffed with Four Cheeses from Eataly.

IMG_5622 2With Buffalo ricotta on top

IMG_5630Fettuccine with Fresh Tomatoes and RicottaIMG_5631On the plate

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Barbera D’Asti “Ca’ Di Pian” 2004 Spinetta made from 100% Barbera from Castagnole delle Lanze, Costigliole d’Asti and Montegrosso d’Asti. The exposure is southern and the vines are 24 years old at 300 meters. The soil is calcareous marl. Maceration and alcoholic fermentation in temperature controlled vats for an average of 10 days. Malolactic fermentation is done in used French oak barrels, followed by 12 months of aging and then about 3 months in bottle before release. This a balanced wine wine with hints of blueberries and peach.

IMG_5665 2Pasta Amatriciana  — my favorite, with guanciale, tomatoes and pecorino


IMG_5617 2 Figs — New Jersey grown by a friend.

IMG_5623 copyDeb’s Homemade Chocolate Cake and Ice cream — One of the best chocolate cakes I have had in years.


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Filed under Antinori, Barbera, Barbera d'Asti, Chianti Classico, Scarpa, Spinetta

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

My Favorite Restaurant In Rome

Every time Michele and I are in Rome we go to Checchino dal 1887 and have been doing this since 1983. This time we went with three friends on a Sunday afternoon.  The restaurant is owned by the Mariani family.

Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen and their sister Marina handles the accounting. Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world.

When we arrived and Francesco showed us to our table, he pointed to the table next to us and there was Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine and author of the Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019), his wife Marina Thompson, and Daniele’s mother and father–his father is 96 years old.

Francesco brought up me two magnums from the cellar.  I knew immediately which one I wanted, the 1975 Chianti Classico Villa Antinori Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori because I know it is a wine that can age. In 2016 I had the 1964 and it was fantastic. I asked Francesco to pour some wine for Daniele and was interested to see what he would say. I asked him about the wine. He said it was mostly Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo and a very small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. Antinori was just beginning to experiment with barriques and Daniele said a little of the wine was most likely aged in barriques.

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!

I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense, that I cannot resist it.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is my favorite pasta dish and, as they say, “nobody does it better.” I always order it here.

Michele had the  rigatoni  with  oxtail  ragu.

Three of the best red wines in Italy are made around Rome.  They are Torre Ercolano, Fiorano and Colle Piccioni. The only one still on the list is the

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1983Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine was aged in large oak barrels. The wine has hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.

For my main course, I had Fegato di vitello ai ferri, thin slices of grilled veal liver with onions.  It was very flavorful and tender, and as a side dish.

I had an Artichoke alla Romana. 

Michele had,  at  Daniele’s  recommendation,  the  padelloto, a plate of assorted innards including kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, and so on, cooked with garlic, rosemary and a dash of vinegar.  It is the classic quinto quarto, fifth quarter of the calf that was eaten only by the poor people of Rome, though it is now considered a great delicacy.               

There was a cheese course  with  some  aged Fontina,  pecorino  Romano,  and goat  cheese.

Daniele sent over a bottle of port to go with the cheese

.Vintage Port 1970 Quinta da Roeda Corft.  The Quinta da Roêda is one of the great Porto vineyards. It is produced only in years of exceptional quality when a general Porto vintage is not declared. The grapes are trod by foot in granite lagares to minimize the release of harsh bitter compounds from skins and seeds. The wine spends two years aging in vats before bottling. It had hints of red berries, dark cherry, plum and spice and was a perfect combination with the cheese.

Checchino dal 1887 is the best restaurant in Rome for real Roman food. If you are in Rome this is the one restaurant you must go to. It is also Daniele’s favorite restaurant in Rome, and he is a native Roman.


Filed under Antinori, Checchino dal 1887, Chianti Classico, Colle Picchioni, Port

A Thanksgiving with a Difference

Sometimes Michele makes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and sometimes she cooks something completely different. This time it was completely different

We started with smoked duck breast, cashew nuts, green olives and foie gras on toast with fig jam.img_1861

For an aperitivo, we drank a Franciacorta Bellavista Grand Cuvèe Brut 1989 Classic Champagne Method. The wine today is made from 80% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Bianco but I do not know what the blend was in 1989 and they have since changed all their labels and the names of the sparkling wine.img_1865

The next wine was a Champagne Blason de France Perrier-Jouèt, A Epernay Brut Rose NV Prestige Cuvèe. Made from 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier and 25% Chardonnay. The dosage: 10g/l and it matures for at least 3 years in the house cellars. This is a powerful wine with a distinctive flavor, roundness, hints of red fruit and a touch of brioche. I do not know how old it was but I do know this label is not used anymore. It was a perfect combination with the foie gras and fig jam.img_1875

The next course was mushroom soup made with chanterelles and other mushrooms, a splash of Cognac and finished with cream.

We began with the Roero Arneis 2001 from Bruno Giacosa. Made from 100% Arneis. The wine was showing very well. It had a depth of aromas and flavors that one would not expect from a 15 year old white wine. I was not surprised because I had the 1974 a few years ago and it was showing very well.img_1869

Volnay 1er Cru “Les Santenots” 1972 Domaine Potinet Ampeau. At a dinner with such remarkable older wines this was my favorite. It was all one could ask for from a Burgundy.img_1860

Our main course was a pork loin roast stuffed with mortadella, accompanied by a potato and Fontina gratin prepared by one of the guests, green beans with Parmigiano Reggiano and Brussels sprouts with pancetta and walnuts from Michele’s book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.img_1879

With it, we had the Vino Nebbiolo Sori Del Turco 1971 from Gaja. Angelo Gaja’s father made the wine. I would think it was 100% Nebbiolo but back then they often added Barbera to the blend. This is a classic wine with all the aromas and flavors of the Langhe.img_1871

We finished the main course and the cheese course with a magnum of Villa Antinori Chianti Classico 1964.

The wine was in excellent condition which did not surprise me because I had the Antinori Chianti Classico 1943 not too long ago. So much for those who say Sangiovese does not age. Sheldon Wasserman in his classic book “The Noble Red Wines of Italy” has a tasting note dated 1/83 on the magnum. He gives it one star and says it might be drying out. He was wrong. This is a wine with body and hints of cherry and blueberry, Chianti Classico just the way I like them.

Our dessert was roasted chestnuts and fresh fruit, followed by an airy pumpkin chiffon pie prepared by our friend Diane Darrow for the recipe

We finished the meal with Romano Levi Grappa and cafè.


Filed under Antinori, Arneis, Bellavista, Champagne, French Wine, Gaja, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Nebbiolo 1971 Gaja, Perrier- Jouet Blason de France, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook, Volnay 1er Cru Les Santenots Domaine Potinet Ampeau

The New Chianti Classico Classification: Gran Selezione

I had been waiting for an opportunity to taste the 2010 vintage Chianti Classico Gran Selezione  DOCG to see what they were all about so I was pleased to attend a seminar and tasting of the wines.IMG_7875_2

The seminar was billed as a Master Class: “An Exploration of the Territory of Chianti Classico,” and was presented by Antonio Galloni. He selected 7 wines from the Gran Selezione category. This new classification is at the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid. In order to qualify for this classificatio, the grapes for these wines must be estate grown and come from a single vineyard, or selected from the estates best-suited vineyards. Gran Selezione wines can be released on the market after 30 months from the grape harvest, including at least 3 months of bottle aging. The alcohol must be at least 13%.IMG_7879_2

The Chianti Classico zone is between Florence and Siena and includes the communities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti and includes parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnella Val di Pesa.

As of 2005, all Chianti Classico has the Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) on the label. Before 2005 a Chianti Classico producer did not have to belong to the Consortium and therefore did not have to put the Black Rooster on the neck label. This was very confusing for the consumer.IMG_7873_2

Chianti produced outside this Classical zone cannot have the word Classico on the label and cannot have the Black Rooster symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium on the neck label. For more information see my blog

Grand Riserva Wines – Mr. Galloni used the wines of different producers of the Grand Riserva as examples of how the vineyard elevation, soil type and exposure will produce different styles of wine.IMG_7865_2

Badia a Passignano 100% Sangiovese Antinori The production zone is Tavarnella Val di Pesa. Fermentation lasts for 10 days and the must is in contact with the skins for another 10-12 days. After racking, the various lots were aged for 14 months in Hungarian oak barrels and in French oak barrels. The wine remained in the bottle for another 12 months. The wine has aromas of ripe fruit, with hints of cherries and a slight touch of vanilla. It has a nice finish and long aftertaste. $60IMG_7866_2

Isole e Olena 82% Sangiovese, 9% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petite Verdot. The production area is 9 km north of Castellina in Chianti. Fermentation is in conical open vats for 3 weeks for the Sangiovese and Cabernet and 2 weeks for the Syrah. The wine spends 22 months in French barriques (225 liters) of which 30 are new, and 10 months in casks. The wine was bottled in July 2013. It has hints of cherries, blackberries and spice with a touch of balsamic. $ Not yet released.IMG_7867

Castello di Fonterutoli 92% Sangiovese, 8% Malvasia and Colorino. Marchesi Mazzei Production zone is Castellina in Chianti. The grapes are hand harvested starting on October 1. The wine is aged is barriques and 500 liter tonnneaux of which 60% are new. It has nice fruit with hints of cherries and a touch of violets. $70IMG_7868_2

Mona Lisa Vignamaggio 85% Sangiovese,15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Greve in Chianti. There are 16/18 days of fermentation and maceration on the skins. After malolactic fermentation there is 18/20 months of barrique aging and 12/14 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry and plums. $40IMG_7869_2

Vigna del Sorbo Fontodi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Panzano in Chianti. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in inox tanks and maceration lasts for 25 days. The wine is aged in 225 liter French barrels for 2 years. Not all the barrels are new. It has hints of cherries, violets and a touch of spice.  $70IMG_7870

San Lorenzo Castello di Ama 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and Malvasia Nera. Area of Production Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 12 months in French oak and 2 years in bottle. It has red fruit aromas and flavors with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $50IMG_7871

San Marcellino Rocca di Montegrossi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Pugnitello. Production area Monti in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 28 months in 49% barriques and 51% in tonneaux of Allier oak, 20% new wood, 10% two years and 70% 3 years. The wine was bottled on April 19, 2013 and remained in the bottle for at least 24 months before release. $50. They are certified organic. The wine has hints of black cherry and plum with a touch of cedar and leather. $50IMG_7872_2

Colonia Felsina 100% Sangiovese Area of production Castelnouovo Berardenga. Fermentation and maceration are for 16/20 days in steel tanks with punchdowns and popovers at controlled temperatures. In March/April the wine is transferred into new and once-used oak barriques for 18/20 months maturation followed by at least 6/8 months in the bottle. It has hints of cherry and plum with a touch of cinnamon. $85

In answer to a question, Mr. Galloni pointed out that two of the wines we tasted shared the same oenologist, Franco Bernabei. But the wines do not taste the same because the vineyards are located in different zones.


Filed under Antinori, Castello di Ama, Castello Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Fonti, Isole e Olena, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Rocca di Montegrossi, Vigamaggio

Celebrating the Year of the Horse



Every year, we get together with friends and celebrate Chinese New Year.  Since this is the year of the horse, we decided on a theme — wine vintages from past years of the horse. I was told that I was born in the year of the water horse but I could not find a wine from that year.

Jelly Fish and Cold Cuts

Jelly Fish and Cold Cuts

We chose the Oriental Gardens Restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown for the dinner. The service was excellent and so was the food. Our waiter was the best that I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant and could have qualified as a sommelier at a top restaurant.

The Wines

2002 Year of the Water Horses


Chablis Domaine Billaud- Simone Cru “Les Preuses” 2002  100% Chardonnay. The exposure is south; southeast and the vines are 65 years old. Harvesting is by hand. Vinification is in stainless steel. Aging is for 8 to 10 years depending on the vintage. This is an elegant complex wine, with aromas of honey, toast and lemon with good minerality, a long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. It was a great way to start the celebration.

1990 Year of the Metal Horse


Regaleali Rosso Sicilia IGT 1990 made from 100% Nero d’Avola. Fermentation is in stainless steel for an average of 10 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel 50% and 50% in oak casks of 30HL and 60HL for 6 months. This was a real surprise. The wine was 24 years old and is the type of wine that one would think is to be drunk young. It was in vey good condition with no signs of oxidation and enough fruit to make it very enjoyable.

1966   Year of the Fire Horse


Chateau Montrose 1966 – Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 30% and Cabernet Franc 5%.  Back then, the average age of the vines was 29 years. The wine was aged for 22 to 24 months in barrel. Robert Parker in his book Bordeaux (1985) writes that the anticipated maturity of the wine is between 1986 and 2010. The wine is classic St-Estephe and was drinking like a younger wine.


Chianti Classico Fattoria Di Santa Christina 1966 Fattoria dei Marchesi Lodovico and Piero Antinori. I am not surprised anymore when I drink older Chianti Classico. This wine was made with white grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, and they most likely used the governo method (drying 10% of the grapes).   This was the wine of the evening for me.

1978 Year of the Earth Horse

Barolo “Vigneto Rocchette” 1978 Giovanni Accomasso & Figli. I do not believe that I have had any wine from this producer. The location of the winery is La Morra but as far as I know it is not imported into the USA.


 Barbaresco Bricco Asili 1978 100% Nebbiolo Ceretto.  We had this wine at another New Year celebration a few days later and it was showing so well I just had to include it.


Barolo 1978 Cogno- Marcarini  100% Nebbiolo–  This wine was made when Elvio Cogno was the winemaker. Cogno produced some of the best classic traditional wines that it has been my pleasure to drink. This one was no exception and it was the wine of the evening for a number of people. 1978 was a very good vintage for Barolo. Wasserman gave Cogno’s Barolo 4 stars, his highest rating.


Filed under Antinori, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Regaleali, Uncategorized

Good Friends, Champagne and Old Wine

My friend Albert and I were planning to have lunch at restaurant SD26 in NYC recently. He told me he wanted to bring a bottle of 1966 Chateau Ausone and said that he also had another ‘66 and a ‘62. When I mentioned this to Irwin, a member of my wine group, he said that Ausone is his favorite wine. Then he said that if I would organize a dinner with Albert and the Ausone, he would bring a 1996 Champagne Krug and a 1931 Chateau Latour. Two other members of the wine group, Travis and Nicole, said they would come and bring some older wines, too. I could not wait to arrange this dinner. SD 26 was closed for an event on the night that we could all get together. However Tony May the owner said we could have one of the small private rooms and it was perfect.

The Wines

Champagne Krug 1996  Made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the percentage of each variety depends on the vintage. The wine is aged in used barriques. Full bodied, complex and dry with a hint of toast. This wine will last for many years. This is a great wine in an excellent vintage. Is there any better way to begin the evening than with Krug Champagne.

Grand Vin Chateau Latour 1931 Pauillac, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdpt.  Made from old vines in the 47 ha of the original Enclos. Today there are 10,000 vines per hectare but I do not know if it was the same 80 years ago. I believe 1931 was not a great year in Bordeaux but Latour is known for making great wines even in off years.  The wine is 81 years old and it was in great condition, good color, no signs of oxidation, elegant and balanced — a classic Pauillac.

My first experience drinking Latour was with the 1963 vintage, a very poor vintage. The year was 1969 and I paid $3.99 a bottle for the wine in a store in Brooklyn. The wine was wonderful and Chateau Latour became my favorite Bordeaux.

Barolo 1931 100% Nebbiolo. Borgogno This was the only disappointment. The wine was starting to come apart with celery aromas and high VA. We could not drink it.

Chianti Vecchio Della Fattoria Santa Christina 1943 Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori
The wine was mostly Sangiovese with some Canaiolo and Colorino, and two white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano.  Most likely the governo method was used. The wine was in perfect condition.  There were hints of fruit and the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines.
On the neck label it reads: “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti”.

Ask any producer of Chianti today and they will tell you that Chianti made with white grapes and using the governo method will not age. In order to make “great Chianti” they must use international grapes and concentrators and put the wine in barriques. Chianti has lost its identity. I guess the present Consortium does not defend the typical wine of Chianti.

Chateau Ausone Premier Grand Cru, St. Emilion 1962 Made from 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is only 7 hectares and there are 6,500 vines per hectare. This is a wine with great color and body with hints of leather and cherry and a great finish and aftertaste. It was one of the best St. Emilion’s I have ever tasted.  Then I tasted the Ausone 1966 and it was even better.

Fixin Clos Napoleon 1959 Domaine A.Ligeret 100% Pinot Noir.  The label indicated that it was a special bottling for the Chevaliers du Tastevin. The wine was showing very few signs of age and it was a elegant and classic Burgundy.

This was a very special dinner with good friends and great wine.  I cannot wait to do it again. Albert still has some more Ausone and Travis said that he had another Borgogno Barolo 1931.


Filed under Antinori, Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Chianti, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Wine

A Tale of 2 Wines, 2 Steaks and Old Memories

 Gran Vino del Chianti 1953 Villa Antinori Cantine dei Marchesi L. e P. Antinori

1953 was a not a very good year in Tuscany but this was one of the best older Chiantis that I have tasted. It ranks right up there with the 1947 and 1958 Gold Label from Ruffino.   I believe that it was mostly Sangiovese and Canaiolo with some white grapes, most likely Malvasia. The governo method was probably used (10% of the grapes are dried and added back into the wine). It was most likely aged in large Slavonian oak barrels.

 This wine called for a Bistecca Fiorentina but at Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there was none to be found.  However, they did have a very well prepared Petite Sirloin with roasted potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and mixed green vegetables in buttermilk. The combination of the steak and the wine made me very happy.

 The American Institute of Food and Wine (AIWF) held its monthly dinner at Macelleria Restaurant in the meatpacking district in Manhattan. When I entered the private dining room I saw on the wall the banner for the Ordine Del Cavaliere Dei Vini Nobile. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s I was a board member of the Ordine, the best Italian wine organization that ever existed in this country. The list of members included all the important wine and food people in NYC and I have a group picture to prove it.

 Macelleria is owned by the daughter of Sergio Bitici. In the 1980’s and 1990 Sergio along with his brothers owned a number of Italian restaurants in NYC.  Sergio was the Chairman of the Ordine. When I saw him at Macelleria, we had a long discussion about the Ordine and how tuxedos were required for the events and how the men complained about it.  In reality, everyone really liked getting dressed up, especially the women!  

My Induction into the Ordine by Sergio Batici(on the left)

 I noticed a number of interesting watercolors on the walls of the restaurant.  When Sergio saw me looking at them, he said that he had painted them. I told him that next time he had a showing to invite me as I was interested in one or two of the paintings. There was a drawing for one of Sergio’s painting that night to benefit the AIWF but I did not win. However, I did win a fabulous basket of Italian products from Coluccio and Sons.

 We had a very nice meal and the highlight was a Bistecca Fiorentina from DeBragga (New York’s Butcher) that was cooked to perfection and went well with the Chianti Classico.

 The wine was a 2006 Chianti Classico Marchese Antinori Riserva made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and other complementary red grapes. After a destemming and gentle pressing the must for this wine was placed in steel tanks. Gentle pumping and destestage followed and the must was separated according to varietal. Malolatic fermentation was spontaneously completed in 225 liter oak barrels of second and third passage. The skin contact for the Sangiovese was 12 days and for the Cabernet Sauvignon a little over two weeks. The wine was then aged in small oak barrels for 14 months and tasted barrique by barrique before being bottled. It was aged for one year in bottle before being released. The wine was a little too modern in style for my taste and I hope they will go back to making wine as they did in the past.

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Filed under Antinori, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Wine

Renzo Cotarella and the Wines of Marchesi Antinori at Eataly

I have met winemaker Renzo Cotarella a number of times at Vinitaly, the annual wine fair in Verona and at ITrulli restaurant where I was the wine director.  Renzo has always been eager to talk about wine and answer all my questions. Thanks to him I am able to recognize a “corked” wine and explain why it is corked even when it is not obvious.   I was eager to attend a class he was teaching at Eataly.

 When Renzo walked into the room and saw me, he came over and said “Charles, we have to speak about Fiorano.”  The class was beginning so we could not speak until later, but that conversation will have to wait for another blog.

 Renzo began by talking about his years in the wine business and the history and wines of Antinori.  Many years ago Renzo tasted older Chardonnays with Darrell Corti from California (owner of Corti Brothers Fine Wine and Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store) and was surprised how well the wines had aged. When he became the winemaker for Antinori he wanted to make a white wine that would age but did not want to make just another Chardonnay. He turned to the local Umbrian grape Grechetto that would add acidity and minerality to the Chardonnay and make it more interesting. The wine he produced was Cervaro Della Sala and the way he spoke about this wine showed that he was very excited about what he had produced.

 His said that the blend changes according to the vintage, the hotter the year the more Grechetto is in the blend. The Grechetto is added at the last minute after he sees how the Chardonnay is developing. Grechetto may be anywhere between 5% to 20% of the blend.  Renzo said the first real vintage was 1986 and the wine is still drinking and has good acidity and minerality.

 Cervaro Della Sala Umbria IGT 2006 Made from 85% Chardonnay and 15%     Grechetto depending on the vintage. The grapes come from 15 to 20 year old vines planted at Antinori’s Castello della Sala Estate at elevations ranging between 650 and 1.300 feet in pliocene sedimentary soils rich in marine deposits with some clay. Renzo said that in 2006, all of the grapes showed a good level of sugar, balanced acidity and polyphenolic components. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in a special refrigerated conveyer until they are ready to be pressed. The Chardonnay and Grechetto are vinified separately and the must remains on the skins for 8 to 12 hours. Renzo said that this was done to maximize the wine’s aromas. The must is then placed in French barriques –Alliers and Troncais  – where alcoholic fermentation takes place over a period of 14 days. The wine stays on the lees in barriques for 6 months while malolatic fermentation is completed. The wine is then racked, blended and bottled and is released after ten months.

 Cervaro Della Sala Umbria IGT 2008.  The wine was vinified the same way as the 2006, however there was a big difference in the style and taste of the wines. Renzo said that it was very hot at the end of August 2006 and the grapes were over ripe and therefore the 2006 is rounder, bigger and riper then the 2008. Also, Chardonnay ripens before the other varietals and this can be a problem. When he is asked how a vintage will turn out Renzo said that it all depends on the weather in the last month. Weather-wise 2008 was a better year and the wine has better acidity and minerality. He preferred the 2008 but the weather was not the only difference.  Renzo said, and this really got my attention, that they are now using less oak (barriques).  He wants more bright fruit in the wine and which should reflect the terroir in which the grapes are grown. The 2008 was aged in barriques, 50% new and 50% one year old.  I really enjoyed the 2008.

The 2009 and the 2010 will have 3 months less of oak aging.  Renzo called this a unique wine and said that men liked the wine but women really loved it.

 Tignanello  Toscana IGT 2004 made from 85 % Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 5% Cabernet Franc. This has been the blend since the 1982 vintage.  The harvest was later than in the previous year 2003 which was very hot. The grapes come from the Tignanello vineyard, a 116 acre site at Antinori’s Tignanello estate. The vineyards face southwest with calcareous rocky-marl and limestone soils and albarese rock. There is a long maceration with frequent delestage, after fermentation, the wine was placed in new French oak barriques where malolatic fermentation was competed by the end of the year. After malolatic the wines were blended and left in barriques for 12 months in order to mature. Renzo said that the wine was tasted one barrique at time to make the final selection before bottling. The wine is aged one year in bottle before release. Tignanello was first released as a single-vineyard Chianti Classico in 1970.

Renzo said that Tignanello was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, to use nontraditional grapes and leave white grapes out of the blend. Therefore it was the first Super Tuscan.  Tignanello is only produced in the best vintages and there was none produced in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1992 and 2002. He really caught my attention once again when he said that 2004 was a very good vintage but the grapes were very ripe. In fact he said that the wine was too big and too concentrated and he wanted to get away from this style of wine!

  Tignanello  Toscana IGT 2007.  Made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine was made the same way as the 2004, or was it? Renzo began by saying that 2007 was an excellent vintage in Tuscany. I thought that the difference between the two wines was like night and day. The 2004 was much darker in color, bigger, more concentrated and lacking in acidity. The 2007 was a very well balanced wine, with good structure, soft tannins, good minerality, acidity, and bright fruit, In short, a wine that tasted like the place that it came from and would go very well with food. This is my type of wine and now I hope it is also Renzo’s.  He said that since 2004 they were moving away from these heavy, oaked red wines and moving toward more fruit and less wood in the wines.  Where the wine comes from is very important and the wine should reflect this.

 The first bottle of Tignanello that I tasted was from the 1975 vintage. I really liked the wine as well as the other vintages produced in the 1970’s. It seems to me that with the 2007 they are beginning to move back toward the wines of the 1970’s! One can only hope!

Renzo Cotarella

 Renzo said that they have in the vineyard what they call a “Master Selection”.  These are the same clones that they had in past and still use today. They did not replant with the “new’ clones of Sangiovese recommended by the Sangiovese Project 2000.

  Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri DOC 2001 made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah other red grape varieties. The Merlot was harvested at the beginning of September and the Cabernet from the middle to the end of September. After destemming and light crushing, the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are vinified separately.  Maceration is in stainless steel tanks over a period of 15 to 20 days, during which time alcoholic fermentation is also completed. The wine was transferred to French barriques of Troncais and Alliers where malolatic fermentation was completed by the end of the year.  The wine was then racked, blended and returned to the barrels for about 14 months aging. It was aged in bottle for about one year before release.  2001 was a very good vintage in Bolgheri but I found that this was big wine, over extracted, ripe fruit and a wine that was too modern for my taste.

 Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2007 Renzo said that they no longer use Syrah and have gone to a more Bordeaux style blend; Cabernet Sauvignon 57%, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Ideal dry conditions in September with warm days and cool nights allowed the grapes to ripen perfectly delivering exceptional high quality fruit. After 18 months of aging in new barriques the best lots were blended. The wine was then bottled and aged for 10 more months before release. As Renzo kept on saying,  2007 was an exceptional vintage in Tuscany. But it was not only the vintage that made the wine better. The demise of the Syrah was a factor as well as Renzo’s new approach to wine making. It is still a big wine but is well balanced with hints of black fruit and a very nice finish and aftertaste.

 Renzo said that Tenuta Guado al Tasso is located near the medieval village of Bolgheri in the area known as the Maremma and said that this area is very different from other parts of Tuscany. It is closer to the sea, it is warmer and there are breezes from the sea and from the land which help to moderate the climate. The soil is rich and there are fewer rocks and the elevation is good. He feels that wines from this area have “velvet tannins” and age very well. Sangiovese does not do as well here as the grapes used to make Bordeaux. The growing season is long and if you are not careful the grapes can become overripe and over-extracted. He does not like big dense wines and therefore picks the grapes before this happens.   The wine was first produced in 1990 and is not made in every vintage.

 Solaia Toscana IGT 2007 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc. The optimal climate conditions in mid-September and the first week of October allowed for a slightly early harvest with a careful, unhurried selection of grapes. The grapes come from a 25 acre southwest-facing vineyard that is 1,150 to 1,330 feet above sea level on stony, calcareous soil of marl and friable alberese rock. It is contiguous to the Tignanello vineyard in Chianti. The grapes were harvested by hand. The extraction process was carried out with alternating pumpovers with delestage according to the requirements of the three grape varieties. After alcoholic fermentation, the wines were racked into new oak barrels to undergo malolatic fermentation. The wines are aged in new French oak for about 18 months. After oak aging the wine was selected, blended and aged for one more year in bottle.

 This single vineyard wine was first produced in 1978 and was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Later 20% of Sangiovese was added to the blend according to the vintage. Solaia is only produced in exceptional vintages. I was surprised by this wine. It was more fruit driven then in the past with aromas of cherries and blackberriesand the oak was there but it was not excessive.


Filed under Antinori, Cervaro, Guado Al Tasso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Solaia, Tignanello