Category Archives: Cogno

Christmas Dinner with Tom and Diane

Michele and I always look forward to Christmas dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. For a number of years it has been our tradition to invite Tom and Diane to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, and they have us to their home for Christmas. They are excellent and adventurous cooks and Diane often chooses recipes from books she has written about in her blog

Tom has a great wine collection and will try to find the perfect wine match for each course.  Though all of our previous holiday celebrations have been wonderful, it seemed to be extra-special this year.

The meal began with a series of appetizers, several of them made with truffle products from Tartuflanghe.  This company specializes in white truffles and related products from Piedmont.

IMG_8841Prosciutto wrapped truffled grissini


Toast topped with beef tartare seasoned with truffled salt


Savory salame and cheese puffs

IMG_8835Cashews coated with salted truffle juice

These treats were served with two Champagnes:

IMG_8844Gosset Champagne Brut made from 45% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. Malolactic fermentation is avoided. It has hints of apple, citrus fruit, lime, almonds and a touch of lemon.  8g/l dosage. Gosset is the oldest Champagne House in Aÿ.

IMG_8845Guy Larmandier Champagne Cramant Grand Cru Blanc des Blancs Brut Zero  The wine has hints of citrus fruit, white peach, apple, and a touch of almonds. This is a full bodied champagne.

IMG_8847Cotechino sausages wrapped in pastry.  These large pork sausages are a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region and are typically served as part of a bollito misto with fruit mostarda.  We always have cotechino on New Year’s Day with lentils, a tradition in many parts of Italy.


The sliced Cotechino with Mostarda di  Cermona- -it was so delicious I had two slices.

IMG_8849Elvio Cogno  PREPhylloxera Barbera d’Alba 2010 made from barbera vitis vinifera from a 0.25 hectare plot at 520 meters. There are 4,500 vines per hectare vertically  trellised  with guyot pruning. Harvest is at the beginning of October. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with controlled automatic pumping over. The wine is aged in large Slavonia oak barrels for 12 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a well-structured wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry, ripe cherry, a note of blackberries and a touch of prune and spice. The aroma is aromatic and deep with a perfectly balanced acidity. Only 2,000 bottles are produced. The wine was showing no signs of age and will last for many more years.

This was for me the wine of the evening and the best Barbera I have had in a long time — and I have had many great ones.

This is the story behind the wine according to the producer:  “Produced from one of the last archaic vineyard of Langhe region, an open air museum from a time gone by, with vines older than a hundred years. The vines are on 100% Vitis Vinifera roots and replicate by layering. They have therefore maintained, over the decades, the original Barbera characteristics. The small plot, situated in Berri near La Morra, has an excellent exposure and sandy-chalky terrain which guarantees a natural protection from Philloxera. This mixes with the intriguing vine resiliency and its most typical charms imparted from the microclimate and a particularly favorable altitude. The low production per hectare guarantees an intensely rare and rich organoleptic concentration. The wine is refined in oak casks which slowly develop all primary aromas. Pleasant and refined, complex even as a young wine, it is not afraid to be aged in bottle, expressing its solid uniqueness even over the years.”


Perfectly roasted 8 pound Capon with  stuffing of apples, pears, prunes, chestnuts, walnuts, ground veal, pancetta and cognac.  What a beauty!

IMG_8855Perfectly carved by Tom and on the plate with butter browned boiled potatoes and sautéed green beens.

Tenute Cisa Asinari die Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga 2004 made from 100% Nebbiolo from a 11.93 single vineyard with a south/south east exposure at 220/290 meters. Soil is limestone and blue marl and the training system is guyot. The vines are 30 to 40 years old or more. Fermentation is with selected yeasts with a submerged cap for 10 to 14 days. Malolactic fermentation is completed. Farina fossile and micro filtration during bottling. The wine is aged in French oak allier barriques, 30 percent new and 70 used and then 12 to 18 months in Slavonian oak casks. The wine then remains in the bottle for 12 to 18 months before release. The wine has hints dried cherries, tea, licorice a touch of tobacco. It is starting to drink now but will last for a few more years at least. This is a practicing organic winery.

IMG_8856The cheese

IMG_8857Bodegas y Viñedos Vega Sicilia 2001 made from younger vines of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is added to a greater or lesser extent depending on the vintage. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks as does the malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for five years in wood and in the bottle which is why it is called Valbuena 5. The oak is French and American, new and used 225 liter barrels and 20,000 liter vats. The wine has hints of red fruit, black cherries, raspberries, mocha and vanilla. It will last for at least 10 more years.  The winery is located in the Ribera del Duero region, an appellation under the Spanish DOP.  Lars Leicht, another guest, brought this wine.

IMG_8859 Michele made this delicious lemon tart in an almond crust.

Tom has a large grappa collection and all meals end with a selection of grappa and other after-dinner spirits.


I had one of my favorites. A traditional grappa Capo di Stato from Loredan Gasparini in the Veneto, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.


Filed under Barbera, Champagne, Cogno, Tom & Diane, Tom and Diane, Vega Sicilia

Best Pizza Since Naples

A friend raved about the homemade pizza made in his backyard pizza oven,  claiming  that  it  was  as  good  as  I could  find  in  many  pizzerias.  I was skeptical, but I said, bring it on.  I would love to try it.

Our friend’s daughter-in-law made the dough and wrapped it neatly in individual pizza size portions.  She told me that she made it with Italian 00 flour which gives a tender crust.  

The pizza oven is something called a Roccbox.  It uses propane gas and gets up to a temperature of 900 degrees F.

Our friend’s son Jason made the pizzas.  We started with focaccia,  topped with sliced fresh garlic and fresh thyme.

Dough ready for the topping

Homemade tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella on top ready to bake.

Pizza in the oven.  The oven is so hot that the pizzas cooked in just a minute or two.

The baked Margherita with a few leaves of fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.  Pizza this good deserves a good wine.

Barbera d’Alba 2015 Pre-Phylloxera DOC Cogno made from 100% Barbra Vitis Vinifera. The vineyard is 0,25 hectares at 520 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare.The sandy chalky terrain is a natural protection from philoxera. The training system is vertically trellised with guyot pruning. Harvest takes place the beginning of October. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over. The wine is aged for 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and a note of ripe cherry with a touch of prune and spice. This is a big wine for a Barbera and it will age.

The next pizza was topped with garlic sauteed escarole, Italian pork sausage and mozzarella.  

The finished pizza was a masterpiece.

Barbaresco 1979 Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo from various vineyards in the DOCG zone. The soil is limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins. Vinification in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. There is 30 days of skin contact and pumping over 2 to 3 times a day. The wine is aged for two years i large oak barrels. The wine has hints of black raspberries, cherries, leather, tea and a hint of spice. It was showing very well. Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy.

White pizza with anchovies satisfied my craving for anchovies.

Margherita topped with prosciutto and arugula.  The prosciutto and arugula are added after the pie is baked and removed from the oven.  The heat of the pizza wilts them.  Outstanding!

Sausage  and  mozzarella  pizza.  All of  the  pizzas  were  excellent.  Rather  than exaggerating  how  good  they  were,  our  friend  had  understated  them   It  was  like  being  in Naples

Barolo Riserva 1967 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural wine making methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo.

Dessert was a blueberry pound cake with ice cream and locally grown black raspberries.


Filed under Barbara, Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Borgogno, Cogno, Pizza, Pizza and Wine, Produttori del Barbaresco