Twenty-two years ago, a young man, Ciro Beligni, came from Florence to work with me at I Trulli Restaurant and Enoteca where I was the wine director. His goals were to improve his English and learn about wine and we became friends. Ciro was a quick learner and after 3 months he returned to Florence to work at Le Volpi e L’Uva, his uncle’s wine bar.
We have kept in touch and now Ciro is the owner of Le Volpi e l’Uva which I always make a point of visiting when I am in Florence. When I was there recently, Ciro invited me and Michele to have dinner with him and his family at his parents’ home. He had told me that his mother was a great cook and promised to open some special bottles of wine for me, so I was really looking forward to it. Michele and I know what an honor it is to be invited into someone’s home in Italy and the warm greeting we received from Ciro’s mother and father made us feel very welcome.
We started with salumi. Finocchiona, made from coarsely ground pork flavored with fennel seeds, is typically Tuscan. There was also a local version of capicola, made from the neck and shoulder of pork.
Next we had lardo, flavored with lemon zest.
There was also hand-sliced prociutto with chunks of well-aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Olive oil flavored with wild fennel was a delicious complement to focaccia.
Ciro’s mom, Bianca, made crostini topped with chicken liver pate. It was flavored with vin santo and capers and was the best version of this typical Tuscan starter that I have ever tasted.
Malvasia secca “Infatuate” Salina 2021 Caravaglio made from 30 year old Malvasia di Lipari vines from the Infatata vineyard on a 2.5 acre north facing vineyard on Salina and is rich in volcanic soils. Fermentation takes place with local yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on the lees for 3 months. This wine has hints of white peach, Meyer lemon, mandarin orange and a touch of herbs in the finish. Ciro always manages to surprise me with wines I have never had before. This one went very well with the appetizers.
To go with the pasta, Ciro chose Duo Etna Rosso MeCori made from 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccino grapes from 80 year old vines grown on the north side at 700 meter in Contrada Muganazzi, Solicchiata. Alberello training method. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in stainless steel with selected yeast. There is a long maceration. The wine remains for ten months in stainless steel and 8 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of roses and violets, red fruit, cherry, rasperries and a touch of spice.
Cheese for the pasta
The pasta was Pici, thick handmade spaghetti from the area around Siena, served with Bianca’s homemade beef and pork ragu and topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Vino Rosso “Pio Decimo” Tenuta Guardasole made from mostly Nebbiolo with the remaining balance of Vespolina. The winery is located in the Boca DOC area of Alto Piemonte. Produced exclusively from estate grapes. This is a small family run winery of only 2 hectares. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. There is a maceration of about 10 days before a 12 day refinement. The wine has hints of black cherry, leather, licorice and a note of spice. It is certified organic.
Ciro presenting a spectacular platter of roasted meats for our main course.
Kale with toasted pine nuts.
There was duck, pork, chicken and pigeon, and roasted potatoes all seasoned with Bianca’s special seasoning blend of fennel, rosemary, sage and garlic.
Chianti Classico 2007 Poggerino (Radda in Chianti) made from 100% Sangiovese. There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training system is bilateral cordon guyot. Manual harvest takes place from the last week of September through the first 10 days of October. Th vineyards were planted in 1994 and 2004. There is a careful selection of the grapes and then they are destemmed and crushed. Fermentation takes place with selected yeasts. Vinification and maceration takes place in concrete tanks for about 35 days with pumpers and manual punchdowns. In December the wine is racked into 20/25 hl of Slavonian oak and tonneau of 4/5hl of French oak where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wines ages for 12 months and is assembled and bottled the following spring. It is aged for 8 months before release.
Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Riserva Pietroso made from 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard selection plot “Fornello” facing east at 1,260 ft. The soil is pure galestro-mineral rich compact clay. The grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation with indigenous yeast in wooden tanks (tine). Aging is in old French oak tonneaux for 6 months, then 30HL Slavonian oak casks (botti) for at least 24 months and in bottle of 18 months before release. The wine is unfiltered. This is a full bodied wine with hints of red berries, blackberries, blueberries, a touch of spice and a note of licorice with a very long finish.
Dessert included fresh green figs, buttery nut cookies studded with pistachios and almonds, and my favorite, schiacciata al’uva, focaccia baked with wine grapes, a Tuscan specialty this time of year.
It was a meal to remember and my sincere thanks to our hosts, Miro and Bianca and their son, my friend Ciro.