Category Archives: Caparone Winery

Dinner at Home with Friends

Michele and I have decided to have more dinners at home and invite friends to join us. This weekend, we invited old friends, wine writer Tom Maresca and food writer Diane Darrow. Tom said he was bringing a “surprise“ red wine and was sure that I would like it.

We started with Champagne.

Champagne Deutz Rose NV () made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It has hints of red berries, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of cherry.

For a light starter, we had bites of sweet honeydew melon wrapped in prosciutto, plus olives and Sicilian almonds.

 Monte di Grazia Rosso 2009 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has aging potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast a few years and it may be the best wine he has made so far!

Our first course was Penne with Zucchini, a recipe from Tommaso Verdillo of Tommaso’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. It is made with a fresh tomato sauce, zucchini, prosciutto and pecorino romano cheese. I liked it so much, I ate three servings.

Taurasi Radici 2000 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but has a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1998 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather.

Our second course was assorted grilled sausages: cheese and parsley, sweet Italian and goat chorizo, with a mixed tomato salad and potatoes fried with sweet peppers.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 Dave Caparone – I first discovered the wines of Caparone a few months ago when Tom Maresca organized a tasting of their Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico from the 2014 and 1996 vintage. Tom wrote to the winery about the 1974 and  Marco Caparone asked his father Dave and this was the reply.

“In 1973  decided to make wine.  For 6 years I was an amateur winemaker working at home.  During this period, I tried to learn as much as possible and I developed ideas about style and method that we still use today.  The 1974 Cab was a product of those efforts.  Of course, these amateur wines did not have the packaging format of commercial wines.  That wine was bottled in 1976 and has not been recorked. 

Beginning in the late 1960s there were new plantings of wine grapes in California’s central coast region (Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties).  these plantings were in places that wine grapes had never been grown before.  Most of the people involved had little or no experience in grape growing or premium wine making.  Needless to say there was considerable concern at the time about the eventual outcome of these efforts and the market for wines from such a new region.  As you can see from the ’74 Cab, they need not have worried.  Tepusquet Vineyards was one such planting.  I believe 1974 was only their second harvest.  My first commercial wine in 1979 was also from Tepusquet grapes.  The vineyard was later purchased by Robert Mondavi and is located about 12 miles East of the city of Santa Maria.”  .  We are beginning harvest (Zinfandel came in yesterday) and so far everything looks very good.  This will be my dad’s 45th harvest.”

This is a lovely well balanced wine, showing no signs of age with very nice dark fruit and hints of eucalyptus and a touch of bell pepper. 1974 was a classic vintage in California and this may be the best example it was my pleasure to drink. Tom can surprise me with wine like this any time/


The  1974 Cabernet Sauvignon, this was the surprise. Tom said it was sent to him from the Caparone winery as a gift with other wines he ordered.

Tom was right, I really liked the wine. With the Cabernet Sauvignon we had two cheeses a soft and aromatic taleggio and a wedge of pecorino Toscano. This last is one of the most misunderstood cheeses I know. It’s a perfect cheese for eating and cooking, full of flavor and has none of the sharp saltiness associated with other pecorino cheeses.

For dessert Michele made Grappa Brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. These were dark and fudgy and not too sweet. She served them with raspberries and vanilla ice cream, but their flavor was so good, they could really stand alone. A glass of grappa was a perfect complement.

Grappa La Trentina “Tradizional” – Grappa Giovane  -Marzaddo Distillery– This is traditional grappa at its best.






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Filed under Caparone Winery, Deutz Rose, Mastroberardino, Monte de Grazia Winery, Uncategorized

Italian Varietals from California

My friend Tom Maresca, a wine writer, wanted to do a tasting at La Pizza Fresca in NYC of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Aglianico from the Caparone winery in California. I did not know the winery and was very skeptical because I have never tasted an Italian varietal from California that I really liked.

I looked the winery up and saw a quote by David Caparone in “Italy’s Noble Red Wines” by Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman. This book was for me the bible of Italian red wine for many years and I have very fond memories of evenings with the Wassermans. They wrote, “Italy has three indigenous varieties capable of producing wines of breed and character. These noble varieties are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico.”

These would be the three Italian varieties that Dave and his son Marc Caparone, the winemakers, use to produce wine. They produce the wines by themselves and do not have any employees.

I contacted the winery and Marc Caparone  said the Nebbiolo is from clone CVT 30, the Sangiovese clone comes from Il Poggione, and the Aglianico is the original clone at UC Davis that his father found there in 1988.

All this sounded very interesting and since Tom liked the wines, I knew I would enjoy tasting them.

There were 6 of us at the tasting, Tom, Diane Darrow,  his frequent co-author, Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW, authors of the “Wine for Dummies” books, and Michele Scicolone, author of The Italian Vegetable Cook Book, The Italian Slow Cooker, 1000 Italian Recipes.

The Caparone winery in Paso Robles California was founded in 1979 by Dave Caparone. It is located northeast of Paso Robles, California. They pride themselves on being the oldest small, artisan winery in the region and making wines with good varietal character, intensity and longevity. They make wines that complement food.

The winemakers do not blend wines and want to make wines that will last for decades. They look for balanced grape maturity. Balanced maturity occurs at moderate grape sugar levels, which means moderate alcohol levels. All of the wines tasted were below 13.5% alcohol.

In order to achieve balance and complexity, each wine is in contact with the grape skins for four to six weeks before pressing. This softens the tannins and adds to the overall balance of the wine. Each of the wines receives two full years in 100% neutral French oak barriques (59 gallons) and are not fined or filtered. The wine remains in bottle for one year before release.

Sangiovese 2014 Paso Robles macerated on the skins at fermentation for 30 days. This is a wine with nice red fruit. It did have the characteristics of an Italian Sangiovese, however, if I was given this wine blind I would have said it was a Chianti Classico Riserva with a bit too much oak and concentration or a “Super Tuscan”.

Sangiovese 1996 the wine was showing no signs of age 18 years later. It had become mellow; the red fruit was still there with a touch of violet. After drinking this I realized that the problem I had with the 2014 was that it was too young.

Nebbiolo 2014 Paso Robles Nebbiolo macerated on the skins for 45 days, in completely enclosed stainless fermenters. This was my favorite wine of the tasting. It was light in color like Nebbiolo should be. In a blind tasting I might have said it was like a Nebbiolo from the north of Piedmont but in a much lighter style with more red fruit and less of the tar, tobacco and dried fruit character.

Aglianico 2014 macerated on the skins at fermentation for 30 days. The wine was dark in color and drinking very well right now. It did have the characteristics of an Aglianico Taburno with hints of black cherry, blackberries and plum.

Aglianico 1996 this wine was not showing any signs of age and had developed into a very drinkable mature Aglianico. This wine reminded me of an Aglianico del Vulture. It still had the black fruit flavors and aromas but had developed hints of tobacco and cedar.

At the Caparone winery, they believe the finest wines are created by nature and are a reflection of the vine and the place where it grows, not of the gadgets and chemicals used so often in modern wine making. They take great pains to interfere as little as possible in the wine making process. Their techniques are mostly a collection of traditional wine making practices more like Europe than California. They do not what excessive oak in their wines.

There were difference opinions and discussions  about the wines which just made it more interesting and enjoyable.

The wines went very well with the food and pizza at La Pizza Fresca.

See Tom Maresca’s article on the Caparone wines  (



Filed under Aglianico, Caparone Winery, Nebbiolo