Category Archives: Italian White Wine

$20 and Under for Summer Drinking

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite wines for summer drinking.

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Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2014 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. It has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $14

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross-featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_8070

Pinot Grigio 2014 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $17IMG_8062

Urban Riesling 2014 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. It is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, with juicy fruit and a minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14IMG_8063

Frascati DOC “Terre Dei Grifi 2013 Made from 50% Malvasia Bianco di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. Hillside vineyards with volcanic, potassium rich soil. The grapes are gently pressed and vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for 4 months to impart greater complexity, structure and bouquet. The wine ages in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has fragrances of exotic fruits and citrus with a touch of ripe pear and almond in the finish. $12

Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 Colli Aprutini IGT Cerulli Spinozzi (Abruzzo) 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation in stainless steel, then malolactic. It is aged on its lees for 5 months before the wine is bottled. Hints of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits and apricot. There is a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I was very impressed by this wine, one of the best I have tasted. $16IMG_8098

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco 2013 DOC Struzziero made from 85% Caprettone 15% and Falanghina or Greco. The vineyards are located on the slopes of Vesuvius. Crushing and destemming followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is bottled in March following the harvest. Aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with good minerality and a touch of smoke. $12

Sparkling

Organic Prosecco DOC grapes for this small production Prosecco are harvested from certified organic wine estate in the town of Vazzola in Treviso. The grapes are grown without chemicals or fertilizers, the grapes are 100% organically grown. It is produced in the extra dry style with just a little more residual sugar than a Brut. It has hints of green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. $16

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Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc  This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $14IMG_7661

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence. Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with nice red berry aromas and flavors. Very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18

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Cantina Terlano St. Maddalena 2014 Alto Adige DOC made from 80% Schiava and 15% Lagrein. The vineyards are between 230 and 500 meters and the exposure is south/ southwest. Harvest is by hand and there is a grape selection and they are destemmed. This is followed by a slow must fermentation at a controlled temperatures and gentle agitation of the must in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging is in big wooden barrels for 7/10 months. The wines are blended one month before bottling. The wine has hints of black elderberry and cherry with a touch of bitter almond and violet. It has balanced acidity and low tannins which is a unique feature of the Schiava grape. $20IMG_8069

Scherecbichl Colterenzio Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Schiava. (Vernatsch) produced by old traditional pergola trained vines. The hillside vineyards are at 410/440 meters and the soils are morainal mixed with sand and eroded porphyry deposits. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation, then four months of aging in tanks. It had red summer fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry, light tannin and acidity. This is a wine to be drunk young served slightly chilled for summer drinking.IMG_8068

Kaltern Caldaro Kalterersee Auslese 2013 Alto DOC Adige 100% Schiava (Vernatsch). The vineyards are on south and east facing slopes surrounding Lake Kaltern at 230/450 meters. The soil is loamy, limestone gravel, with a small proportion of sand. The average age of the vines is 20/50 years and the training system is the pergola. Harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is for one week on the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged four months on the fine lees in stainless steel and large casks. It has hints of cherry and raspberry with a touch of bitter almond. Wine should be drunk young.IMG_8066

Chianti Classico “Aziano” 2013 DOCG Ruffino Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino and Canaiolo. The soil is moderate clay content rich in Galestro rocks. The vineyards are at 200/400 meters. The vines are guyot trained and cordon spur pruned. Fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once malolatic fermentation is complete the wine is aged for 11 months in stainless steel and concrete vats and four months in bottle before release. It has hints of red berries, cherries, violets, plums and a touch of spice. $14IMG_8064

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 Sartori di Verona made from 45% Corvina, 30% Covinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatioa. The Valpolicella Classico area is north of Verona and the soil is calcareous with fine layers of limestone. There is soft pressing with skin maceration for 8 to 10 days. After pressing 10% of the must is extracted to obtain better color and tannin. After racking and malolactic fermentation the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in oak for 15 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. It has aromas and flavors of rich red fruit with hints of black cherry, nice minerality and soft tannins. $20

I was very impressed with this wine. It was one of the best Valpolicellas I have tasted in a long time.

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Filed under Banfi, Bila- Haut, Bio-Dynamic, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kalterer See, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Struzziero, Petale de Rose, Peter Zemmer, Pfarrhof Kaltern, Prosecco, Ruffino, Sartori di Verona, St. Magdalener- Hausler, Terre dei Grifi Frascati, Urban Riesling-Nik Weis

Milan to Venice: Eating and Drinking

For many years on and off, I had gone to Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, though eight years had passed since the last time. This year, Nicole and Travis, owners of Turtledove wine store in Manhattan were going and wanted to know if Michele and I would like to go with them. Michele said no, but I said yes. The trip turned out to be more about eating and drinking than about the wine fair.IMG_7527

I arrived in Milan to very nice weather and joined Travis and Nicole for lunch at Bacaro del Sambuco, Via Montenapoleone 13. This is the most fashionable street in Milan and the restaurant is open only for lunch Monday to Friday. The afternoon was warm and we sat outside in the lovely garden. Most of the customers were stylishly dressed women that had stopped in after a morning of shopping.IMG_7531

I had an excellent lemon pappardelle with anchovies followed by one of my favorites, langoustine. We drank a Franciacorta metodo classico spumante.

That night we went to Trattoria Milanese, Via Santa Marta 11. Michele and I had eaten here a number of years ago when she was doing an article for the Wine Spectator. She still talks about the risotto.IMG_7533

This time we started with an assortment of salumi with bresaola and lardo. I had cotechino with mashed potatoes and lentils.IMG_7534

I tried to order the risotto but the waiter said it was too much food! For dessert I had the fragolini del bosco with gelato.

Milan to Bardolino

Traverna Kus di Zanolli Giancarlo in San Zeno di Montagna, Contrada Castello 14. Michele and I had been here for lunch in May and the restaurant was crowded. We liked it so much that I decided to come back.IMG_7583

The restaurant is in on the ground floor of a restored 17th century farmhouse. There are three interior rooms, a glass enclosed veranda and outside tables for summer dining. We sat in the veranda.IMG_7584

This time we were the only customers. I started with culatello with mostarda,IMG_7587

then ravioli stuffed with asparagus and then a selection of cheese with more mostarda.IMG_7589

For dessert I had a Millefoglie Vite.

With the meal we drank Terre Alte Collio Orientali del Friuli  2012 Livio Felluga a blend of estate grown grapes: Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc from the vineyards in the Rosazzo zone. The soil is marl and sandstone and the training system is guyot. The bunches of grapes are carefully destemmed and left to macerate for a short period of time before crushing. The must is then allowed to settle.IMG_7585

Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon are fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The Friulano is fermented and aged in small casks of French (no new oak is used) oak. The Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon mature in stainless steel tanks. After aging for ten months the wines are blended. The bottled wine is aged in temperature controlled binning cellars for 9 months before release. The wine has a touch of sage, hints of pear, peach and fresh almonds.IMG_7586

Schioppettino di Cialla 2007 Ronchi di Cialla (Friuli) 100% Schioppettino. The 1-hectare vineyard is at 165-180 meters with a south/southeast exposure. The wine ages for four years, 14 to 18 months in barrel and 30 to 36 months in bottle before it is released. This was one of my favorite wines but I have not had it in a long time so I had to order it. It was as I remembered it, hints of dark black fruit, spice, white pepper and a touch of leather. It can age for 20 years or more 

Antica Locanda Mincio, Via Buonarroti 12- 37067 Valeggio sul Mincio. This is one of Michele’s favorite outdoor places for lunch, sitting at a table overlooking the Mincio River and the medieval village. This time I sat inside because we had dinner and it was March. The dining room has a large fireplace and colorful mural on the walls, which creates a medieval atmosphere.IMG_7551

We started with Bresaola and I had Polenta with Salame, which I have every time I come here, followed by a specialty of the region tortelli di zucca and another favorite stinco di maiale, roasted pork shank.IMG_7549

We drank a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2005 from E. Valentino 100% Trebbiano. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonian oak for 24 months. This was a very complex full wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe.

Ristorante Piccolo Doge, Via Santa Cristina 46, Bardolino.

When Michele and I were on Lake Garda last year, we passed this restaurant several times on the way into Bardolino. From the outside it looked a little overdone with lights and Venetian trappings, so we never stopped there. This time the restaurant I had planned to go to was booked, so the receptionist at our hotel suggested it. It was a good choice since the food was excellent as was the service. There is an outdoor patio for summer dining overlooking the lake, which I imagine would be very pleasant.

I started with a warm octopus salad with potatoes and olives. The octopus was cooked just right.IMG_7578

Bigoli, a kind of thick spaghetti with sardines Venetian-style followed and I could not resist the grilled white fish from Lake Garda. For dessert, there was a delicious cake with pine nuts.

Since we were having fish we ordered sparkling wine.IMG_7577

Ferrari Perlé 2007 Trento DOC Method Classico Vintage Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of September from a hillside owned by the Lunelli family around the Trento vineyards. The vineyards are 300 to 700 meters above sea level with a southeasterly or southwesterly exposure. The wine remains for about 5 years on the lees. It is a crisp dry wine with hints of apple, almonds and a touch of toast.IMG_7576

To our surprise there was a Moèt and Chandon Cuvèe Dom Pèrignon 2003 on the wine list for less money than it would sell for retail in NYC. It is made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. We ordered it and it was wonderful and could last for another 15 years.

On our way from Bardolino to Venice we stopped for lunch at Le Calandre in Rubino. They have a choice of three tasting menus, we ordered the Tinto, the spring tasting menu, which was very elaborate.

With all this food we had to have wine:IMG_7603

Champagne “Substance” Brut Jacques Selosse

We started with Champagne “Substance” 100% Chardonnay Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Jacques Selosse. Low yields; organic viniculture and terroir are a hallmark of Mr. Selosse’s wines. He has all Grand Cru holdings in Avize, Cramant and Oger. He uses indigenous yeasts for fermentation and ages the wine in barrels, 20% new oak. The wine is left on the fine lees for an extended period. Dosage is kept to an absolute minimum. “Substance” is a solar Champagne created by Mr. Selosse in 1986, by marrying some 20 vintages in order to avoid vintage variation and allowing the terroir to speak on its own. This is full-bodied Champagne with good fruit, hints of orange peel and spice with good minerality.IMG_7604

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC 2003 100% E Valentini The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was nice fruit, good minerality and just a touch of strawberry in the wine but that may be the only thing it has in common with other rose wines. It has a great finish and lingering aftertaste.IMG_7607

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2002 Emidio Pepe

The Emidio Pepe winery is both organic and biodynamic. The winery belongs to the Triple “A”– Agriculturists Artisans Artists–an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in organic and bio-dynamic production, terroir, and as little interference as possible by the winemaker in the winemaking process. In their vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic preparations. Only natural yeast is used which gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air. The grapes are crushed by hand. No sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25hl where the wine remains for two years. The wine is then transferred to bottles by hand.IMG_7605

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1994 Soldera 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Only grapes from the Casa Base Estate are used. The vineyard is at 320 meters and the exposure is southwest. Natural fermentation is carried out in Slovenian oak casks. There is no temperature control and no artificial yeast is added. Pumping over takes place and frequent tastings take place. The wine can remain up to five years in Slovenian oak casks. 1994 was not a great year for Brunello but this wine was showing very well with

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Filed under Dom Perignon, Emidio Pepe, Ferrari, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Jacques Selosse - Susbstance, Le Calandre restaurant, Livio Felluga, Restaurant Bacaro del Sambuco, Ristorante Piccolo Doge, Ronchi di Cialla- Schioppettino, Soldera, Taverna Kus, Terre Alte, Trattoria Milanese, Uncategorized, Valentini

One Wine Bar, One Restaurant and Tartufo in Rome

There are so many wonderful restaurants in Rome and Michele and I try to eat in as many as possible. We rented and apartment for two weeks in the Monti which is close to the colosseum and the forum and were able to walk to many of them.  IMG_7430

Enoteca Cavour 313, located at 313 Via Cavour, is a wine bar in Rome that I always wanted to try but never got to. Last month we rented an apartment in the Monti section of Rome and I realized that it was right around the corner so we went. It is a cross between a pub and a bistro with dark wooden beams running across the ceiling.

There are two wine lists. One is for the restaurant and it contains close to 1,000 labels in all price ranges. The other is a list of wines for sale that you can take home with you.IMG_7422

The menu is limited but appealing. I had an insalata mista and roast pork with house made pear mostarda. The pork was perfectly cooked and delicious.IMG_7420

We drank a Bramaterra 2005 from Tenuta Sella made from 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina and 10% Vespolina. The production area is in Northern Piedmont. The vines are 48 years old, the exposure is Southwest, the vineyard is at 300 to 350 meters the training system is guyot and the soil is volcanic in origin and reddish brown in color. Harvest takes place between September 22 and October 12. After the grapes are crushed, fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with pumping over and delestage. There is 30 days maceration for the Nebbiolo and 16 for the Croatina. The wine is aged in 10 hl Slavonian oak casks for 28 months. The wine was showing no signs of age. There were hints of faded roses, leather, blackberries and a hint of spice. The wine could age for another 10 years. It is an excellent buy.

Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. Roscioli is very difficult to describe because it is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and cheese, and a wine bar all at the same time,IMG_3237

It was opened in 2002 when Alessandro and Pierluigi Roscioli decided to make the change from the family grocery. They also have a bakery named Roscioli around the corner, with the best fig bread I have ever eaten. They also sell Roman style pizza by the slice. Michele likes the restaurant because it has one of the best spaghetti carbonaras in Rome.IMG_3270

We started with hand made Mortadella from Bologna garnished with crisp bread and 36 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano from red cows.IMG_7342

Then I had the water buffalo DOP mozzarella from Paestum served with Cantabrian anchovies and Taggiasche olives.IMG_7343

We both ordered La Carbonara: Spaghettone Pasta tossed with bits of crispy guanciale (pork cheeks), black pepper, Paolo Parisi eggs and Roman Pecorino DOP.IMG_7396

The wine was the 2012 Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo (Rosè) made from100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini. Aged in large botti of Slavonian oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry in the wine but that may be the only thing it has in common with other rose wines. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro in the restaurant. Eduardo passed away a few years ago but his son Francesco continues the tradition. IMG_7400

Taurasi Radici 1998 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but with 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.

Roscioli has a very good wine list and the wines are displayed on the walls of the restaurant.

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We were walking in the Piazza Navona and passed Tre Scalini, a café and restaurant famous for its Tartufo, chocolate covered chocolate gelato. The tartufo was created in 1946 by the head of the Ciampini family.IMG_7467

It has 13 varieties of Swiss chocolate and the exact recipe is still a secret. It has been a number of years since we had one so we decided to try it once again. The shape is different than I remember it, but it was just as good.

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Filed under Bramaterra, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, Enoteca Cavour 313, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Mastroberardino, Roman Restaurants, Rome, Roscioli, Taurasi, Tenuta Sella, Tre Scalini Tartufo, Valentini

Classic Roman Restaurants

Michele and I rented a apartment in Rome for two weeks. It is in the Monti area which is very close to the Colosseum and the  Forum.

IMG_7354 The apartment we rented was  very comfortable, functional and a  good value for the money. Here is the link https://montihome.wordpress.com

As I have said many times before I love the food in Rome. This time we went back to some of our old favorite restaurants all of which are family run.

 Checchino dal 1887 (www.checchino1887.com, Via di Monte 31 Testaccio).

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Francesco and Elio

The Mariani Family has owned the restaurant since it opened in 1887. Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen.IMG_7460

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. The wine cellar is dug into Monte Testaccio, a hill made from broken amphorae which date back to Ancient Rome. The slaughter houses of Rome used to be located here and the restaurant still specializes in the so called quinto quarto, the fifth quarter, or innards and other spare parts.

I always have long conversations with Francesco about Italian wine and which one I should order with what I am eating. Francesco recommended a bottle of white to start.IMG_7450

Est, Est, Est di Montefiascone, Poggio Dei Gelsi 2013 Falesco Made from 50% Trebbiano, 30% Malvasia and 20% Roscetto. Riccardo Cotarella and his brother Renzo, the winemaker for Antinori, own the winery.

There is soft pressing of the grape-clusters. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with selected indigenous yeasts. There is no skin contact and malolactic fermentation does not take place. Ciromaceration is used for the Roscello grapes. The wine is bottled early to keep its characteristic freshness and taste and it is aged in the bottle. This is an easy to drink wine with floral hints, fruity notes and good acidity.

Three great Bordeaux blends are produced within a short distance from Rome: Torre Ercolano, Colle Picchione and Fiorano. Older vintages of Torre Ercolano and Fiorano Rosso (made by the old Principe who stopped making wine in 1995) are no longer available. Two versions of Fiorano are now made by the old prince’s descendants, his cousin Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi, and another by his granddaughter, Alessia Antinori.IMG_7452

I asked Francesco if they had any older vintages of Colle Picchione. He said he would look and came back with a 1983. This was the last vintage before they singled out “Vigna dal Vassallo” as a cru.

Colle Picchione 1983, Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wines were aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1983 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_7453

With the wines, we ate artichokes alla Romana, Coda alla Vaccinara, oxtail in tomato celery sauce with pine nuts, raisins and bitter chocolate, Bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled baby lamb chops.IMG_7457

Torta stracciatella, a chocolate chip cake, was served with a glass of di Roscetto Passiro Felesco 2012 IGP Lazio Made from 100% Roscetto. This is a native variety from Lazio. The grapes are air dried in a special room to facilitate the development of Botrytis (noble rot).IMG_7456

The wine has nice fruit sensations on the nose, its taste is creamy, full bodied and harmonious with a long lingering finish with honey notes. It was a perfect combination with the torta.

Checchino is still a member of L’ Unione di Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo, a group of restaurants that give you a hand painted plate if you order their signature dish or tasting menu.

The first time I went to Il Matriciano (39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55. The Calasanti family has owned and operated the restaurant since 1912. The present owners, a brother and sister, are always there. Alberto Calasanti is on the floor. He greets the guests and plates the food while his sister sits behind a counter and takes care of the checks. There is a nice outdoor space but of late we like to sit inside, which seems to be favored by the Romans. On Sunday afternoon and at night it is best to make a reservation.IMG_7469

As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) and artichokes alla giudia to start. The flowers were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella and more than a hint of anchovy stuffing.

IMG_7471 I ordered the bucatini alla matriciana.IMG_7475

Then I had abbacchio al forno, baby lamb roasted with potatoes and rosemary. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin.IMG_7477

For desert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato.IMG_7473

We had a Pecorino 2014 IGP Terre di Chieti Cantina Tollo Abruzzo 100% Pecorino Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. The wine has hints of white peach, a touch of spice, with good minerality and acidity.

Armando al Pantheon can be difficult to get into, so always book ahead. The restaurant was established in 1961 by Armando Gargioli. This time we went there twice, once on our own and another time with friends Ernie and Louise.IMG_7315

On the first visit I ordered the bruschetta, one with truffle and quail egg and the other with lardo and walnuts. Then I had bucatini alla matriciana and grilled lamb. The dessert was a strawberry crostata with a lattice top.IMG_7359

The next time we went, both Michele and I ordered the pasta with black truffles because we remembered how the aroma of the truffles filled the whole room on our previous visit. It was wonderful.

The Torta

The Torta

Michele also had Roman style chicken with peppers and we ended with their famous dessert, Torta Antica, made with ricotta.IMG_7316

By the way, she says that the artichoke alla Romana here is the best in Rome.IMG_7314

Both times we ordered 2011 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, from Emidio Pepe.   It was less than 40 Euro–a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I would have expected. Most of my experiences with Pepe’s wines are ones that are 25 years and older.

Trimming Artichokes at Da Giggetto

Trimming Artichokes at Da Giggetto

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. The Ceccarelli family has owned the restaurant since 1923. We went here twice, once by ourselves and the second time with friends. IMG_7335

I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci.IMG_7437

The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. But since we went twice I also had the aliciotti fritti, fried anchovies, and the fava beans stewed with guanciale.

Fava Beans with Guanciale

Fava Beans with Guanciale

Michele also had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.IMG_7434

We had the Bellone 2013 IGT Lazio “Castore,” I00% Bellone, Cincinnato. The Bellone grape may go back to ancient Roman times and is now grown mostly in vineyards around Rome. This is a fresh, fruity, easy to drink white wine that worked very well with the starters.IMG_7438

We also drank a Passerina Del Frusinate 2013 from Feudi Del Sole 100% Passerina. The winery is located a few kilometers from Rome in the Castelli Romani. It is a wine with hints of apples and white preachers, good acidity and a long finish and nice aftertaste.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Armando al Pantheon, Checchino dal 1887, Cincinnato winery, Colle Picchioni, Da Giggetto, Falesco Winery, Feudi Del Sole winery, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Pecorino, Roman Restaurants, Rome

Meeting Alessandro Rivetto

Alessando Rivetto

I will not even look at Barolo and Barbaresco until they are 10 years old. I look at them but put them aside to age for at least another 5 to 10 years. That’s why I like to buy older Barolos and Barbarescos — so I will not have to wait too long to drink them.

Franco Bengazi, owner of the Wine Emporium, an importer and distributor of mostly Italian wine, told me he had a friend who had older vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco to sell.IMG_2005

I went to visit his friend.  He had Barolo and Barbaresco from the 1960’s and ’70’s, stored in cardboard cases that fell apart when we tried to open them.  The wines were from the Rivetto winery and I bought a number of them.

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Alessandro Rivetto

Though we had never met in person, Alessandro Rivetto is my Facebook friend.  When he saw on Facebook my pictures of the Rivetto wines from his families winery, he wrote to me and said that next time he was in NYC we should get together.  I said I would open some of the older vintages for him.

That was a few years ago and a number of things have changed since then.  I drank all of the wines I had bought and Alessandro left his family’s winery and went out on his own. He inherited part of the family vineyards and now has three partners.  Alessandro produces two different lines of wine, the Alessandro Rivetto line and the Ipoli line.  His original family winery is still in business under the name of Rivetto.

Lorenzo Baricca, wine director of Tarallucci E Vino Restaurant in NYC knew of my interest in these wines and my contact with Alessandro.  When he scheduled a dinner featuring Alessandro’s wines, Lorenzo invited me to join them and I met Alessandro at last. We tasted the wines from the Alessandro Rivetto line.

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Langhe Arneis “ Matire”2013 DOC 100% Arneis

The harvest is manual. The must and the skins are in contact at cold temperatures for about 30 hours after which the fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for five days. The wine is aged in stainless steel. This is an Arneis with some body, fruity with hints of citrus and good acidity.IMG_7224

Barbaresco 2010 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. Manual harvest. Stemmer pressing and cold maceration for 2 days after which fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine remains in oak casks for 18 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine has hints of cherries and violets with touches of tea and rose petals.IMG_7226

Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2009 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. Manual harvest. There is stemmer pressing and cold maceration for 2 days. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine is aged for more than 3 years in oak casks. The wine remains in the bottle for 10 months before release. It is a wine with hints of blackberries and violets with a touch of tea and spice. IMG_7235

Barolo “Lazzarito”2009 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Manual harvest then stemmer crushing and maceration. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless tanks. The maceration lasts for 37/42 days. Aging is in oak casks for more then 3 years and in bottle for 18 months before release. This is a wine with hints of leather, spice, licorice and a very long finish. It is a Barolo that will age for many years.

The executive chef at Tarallucci E Vino, Andrew Welch, did a great job of matching the food with the wines.

 

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Filed under Alessandro Rivetto, Arneis, Barbaresco, Barolo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

Vino 2015 in NYC: Some New Discoveries and Some Old Friends

Last week the Italian Trade Commission welcomed wine journalists and members of the trade to VINO 2015, Italian Wine Week. It was billed as the Greatest Italian Wine Event Held Outside Italy: Celebrating the Wines of Southern Italy. There were a number of seminars on Italian wine and other events and a Grand Tasting.

Slow Food/Wine which has a Slow Wine Guide of the 400 best wineries in Italy was also holding a Grand Tasting billed as Slow Wine/Vino 2015. Both Grand Tastings took place over a two-day period at the Waldorf Astoria.

At the Grand Tastings there was an ocean of wine but I did my best to taste as many as I could. There were a number of new discoveries and many old friends.

The Wines.

Filippo Antonelli (Umbria) one of my favorite producers of Sagrantino di Montefalco. I always enjoy speaking to him and tasting his wines. His also produces a white wine that I had not tasted before:IMG_7149

Trebbiano Spoletino, made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino (a white grape variety native to the area around Spoleto). A hand selection of the best grapes in the vineyard which is at 300 meters with a western exposure. Filippo cultivates the vines as they did in ancient times next to maple trees in order to make the grapes grow higher. The vines are attached to the trees keeping them well off the ground so that the late frost in the region does not affect them. The harvest takes place in October.

Soft pressing is followed by skin contact and cold static clarification. Fermentation is in 25 HL oak barrels. Aging in 25 HL oak barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has floral aromas with hints of tropical fruit, almonds and spice. It is well balanced with good acidity.

Colutta from Friuli is a producer I do not know so I decided to taste his wines. Giorgio Colutta was there and he told me about his wines and winery. He makes a number of wines including a Sparkling Brut from the Ribolla Gialla grape. I liked the whole line. The Refosco was one of the best I ever tasted.IMG_7107

Refosco made from 100% Refosco del Peduncolo (Red Stalk). There are 3,000 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, crushed and fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks with additional selected yeasts. Déslestage (rack and return) takes place. After 10 to 15 days the grapes are soft pressed. Part of the wine is aged in barrels and part in stainless steel. This is a wine that needs time. It has hints of wild blackberry, plum and other black fruits.

I have always been a big fan of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico. Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti was there and she told me I have to taste this wine made from very traditional Tuscan varieties.IMG_7140

Chianti Classico “Cultus Boni” 2010 made from 80% Sangiovese, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Fogliatonda, Malvasia, Sanforte, Mommolo and Pugnitello. The geographical area is Monti in Chianti and the vineyards of Montebello and Argenina. The vineyards are at 260 to 370 mt. and the exposure is south, southwest. Soil is clay and limestone, vines are 10 to 35 years old, and training system is guyot. Manual harvest. Natural fermentation takes place with native yeasts, maceration for about 40 days on the skins. Aging is in French Oak barrels of various sizes. This is a full-bodied wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of cherry and violets.IMG_7108

A friend asked me to taste the wines of a Sicilian producer and then give my opinion of the wines. The producer is Alliata and I told him that I liked the wines after tasting them. They make wines from the Insolia, Grillo and Nero d’Avola among others. The Insolia is made from 100% Insolia in northwest Sicily. The soil is clay and pebbles and the vineyard is at 200 to 250 meters. There are 5,000 vines/ha and they use a vertical trellised training system. Harvest takes place the first two weeks of September depending on the maturity of the grapes. Extremely soft pressing takes place with a membrane press at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. The wine ages for 4 to 5 months in stainless steel tanks on the lees. It is released after 2 to 3 months in bottle.IMG_7101

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva “Poggio all’Ora” 2009. Castello Banfi. Made from 100% Sangiovese, estate selection. The Poggio all’Ora vineyard is on the southern slopes of the Montalcino hillside at 250mt. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Temperature controlled vinification is in Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. Aged in barriques for 30 months, and at least 12 to 18 months in bottle. The wine is kept for a total of five years before release. This is a wine with notes of violet and hints of plum, jam and a touch of coffee. I was very impressed by this wine and even though it spends a long time in barriques, the usual tastes associated with these barrels was not present. IMG_7117

Taurasi “Campoceraso” 2007 DOCG Azienda Vinicola Struzziero Avellino, Campania. 100% Aglianico. I had not tasted wine from this producer in some time so I stopped to see if they were as good as I remember them. The vineyards are on the Colline Venticano hills and Torre Le Nocelle. There is controlled fermentation with 25 days of maceration. The wine is aged in oak barrels for at least 36 months. The wine remains in bottle for about six months. This is a wine that can age. It has hints of red fruit, spice, coffee and tobacco. It is a balanced wine with a full aftertaste and long finish. I was happy to see that the wines were as good as I remember them.

Planeta – The winery has different locations around Sicily and I have visited most of them. This wine comes from the Feudo di Mezzo location close to Mt Etna.IMG_7152

Eruzione 1614 Bianco DOC  vintage 2013 made from 95% Carricante and 5% Riesling grapes from the Sciara Nova vineyard in Castiglione, Sicily. The soil is black lava (Mt. Etna) and the training system is vertical trellis, spurred pruned cordon and guyot. There are 5,000 wines per hectare and the harvest takes place on October 6th. Grapes are picked and refrigerated at once at 8 degrees and a hand selection takes place. After a light crushing and destemming the grapes are soft pressed. The decanted must is racked and inoculated with yeast, then fermented at 15 degrees for 20 days. The wine remains on the lees until February with continuous mixing and is bottled in March. This is a white wine that will age and should not be drunk until at least 3 years after the vintage.

 

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Filed under Alliata Winery, Antonelli, Banfi Brunello, Colutta Winery, Cultus Boni Chianti Classico, Eruzione 1614 Bianco, Insolia, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Planeta, Poggio Alle Mura- Castello Banfi, Refosco, Struzziero winery, Taurasi, Trebbiano Spoletino

Celebrating “La Befana”

From beginning to end, it was a wonderful holiday season with good food, good wine and most of all good friends. January 6 marked the end of the season. Though it is not celebrated much here, in Italy it is the feast of the Epiphany, when good Italian boys and girls receive gifts delivered by the Befana, a good witch.IMG_6850

This year, we celebrated at the home of wine and food writers Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. It was our third annual Befana celebration, a tradition begun by Lars Leicht, National Director of Cru Artisan Wines for Banfi. When Lars was young, he spent the summer and many holidays with his family in Anagni, a small town not far from Rome and became familiar with the Italian customs and traditions.

The evening began, as always, with Champagne.IMG_6844

Champagne Brut Andrè Clouet Rose No 3 Bouzy 100% Pinot Noir fermented as blanc Champagne blended with 8% still Bouzy Rouge.

The Clout family owns 8 hectares of vines in preferred mid-slope vineyards in Grand Crus Bouzy and Ambonnay where they have excelled as Pinot Noir specialists. The wines are cellared under the family’s 17th century village house – built by an ancestor who acted as printer to Louis XV’s royal court at Versailles! Respect for terroir is evident in these traditionally crafted wines. The labels are attractively old-fashioned in design appropriate for the descendants of a notable printer. This is a fragrant, round rosé with fine bubbles and ripe, full fruit flavors of Pinot Noir interwoven with drier, toasty complexity; excellent deep color; with hints of strawberry, raspberry and almonds.

With the Champagne we ate baked Italian sausages with sweet and sour figs, a delicious recipe adapted from a cookbook by Penelope Casas. It was an interesting combination and went very well with the Champagne.IMG_6845

Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2011, Fontana Candida Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. Harvesting began in the final 10 days of September and continued until the end of October, producing perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with a golden color and high sugar content. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used. First selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen.  The grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that they invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This is called the “modern” stage. The first batch is cooled immediately prior to a gentle pressing to ensure maximum aromatic qualities. The second batch is destemmed, cooled and fermented in contact with the skins to produce a marked varietal character. This is done without oxygen to keep the grapes fresh. After 6-7 days the skins were removed, any longer than this and there would be too much extract.

Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes are destemmed by hand and added whole to the fermenting must with their own natural yeast for bouquet and flavor. The berries remain in the must until the end of February.  The alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits. The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels, which may be the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. The barrels are not toasted and were steam folded. Mauro Merz, the wine maker, feels that barriques do not give him the type of wine he wants to produce and they are not traditional.  The wine is left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

Luna Mater means Mother Moon; it reflects the wine’s close ties to nature and the 50 old vines that are used to make this wine. It has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.

Seafood Salade

Seafood Salad

This was served with a mixed seafood salad perfectly prepared by Tom Maresca. It was a great match.

Torre Ercolana 2000 Cantina Colacicchi – (Anagni) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cesanese di Piglio.IMG_6846

The wine is made by a natural fermentation, no filtration, sterilization or pasteurization. The wine is aged in barrel with four rackings a year. I have been drinking the older vintage of this wine for a number of years and buy them in Rome at Trimani, a wine store (and wine bar) with an excellent selection. They have exclusive rights to the wine. It is not available in the U.S. and it difficult to find outside Rome. The wine does not always taste the same because the blend changes according to the vintage. In hot vintages the Cesanese does better so there is more of it in the blend. In cooler vintages the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot does better so their percentage is increased. The best however is when all three varieties ripen perfectly.

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Timballo

Burton Anderson, in his book VINO, describes the wine in musical terms. “My first mouthful of Torre Ercolana was like my first earful of Beethoven’s Fifth: so overpowering it left me gasping for adjectives to describe it.”  It has hints leather, spice, red fruit, a nice long smooth finish and great aftertaste.

Lars Leicht’s family is from Anagni where this wine comes from. He told us a story about visiting the winery when he was young. Lars made his famous timballo that he remembers his family making on the holidays. It is made with fresh pasta layered with tomato sauce, ham, hard cooked eggs and cheese, similar to lasagna, though much more delicate. I brought the Torre Ercolana thinking it would go perfectly with the timballo and it did.IMG_6847

 Flaccianello Della Pieve 1999 Tuscan Colli Centrale IGT 100% Sangiovese Fontodi. In magnum The oenologist is Franco Bernabei. There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with the addition of indigenous yeast for at least 3 weeks. The 1999 was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Today maceration is in new Troncais and Allier French oak barrels for at least 18 months. It has hints of blackberries, spice, tobacco and blueberries. There was not even a hint of oak or vanilla. Flaccianello is one of the few Super Tuscans that I can drink and enjoy.

The Ham

The Ham

This was served with roasted fresh ham (porchetta), potatoes, pears and peas.

 Recioto Soave Classico 2007 “Le Colombare” 100% Garganega ( Veneto) PieropanIMG_6848

Certified Organic. Volcanic soil, rich in basalt and tuffo Eocene. The vineyards are at 300m and the exposure is west. The training system is Pergola Veronese and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. There is a manual harvest with careful selection of ripe grapes. All the grapes are collected in small boxes and brought to the winery for the drying process. The grapes are manually placed in a loft on mats made of bamboo reeds. The drying is natural and the grapes remain until they wither which is around the end of February. The natural climate conditions allow for berry dehydration, loss of water and the development of noble rot (Botrytis). The yield of juice is very low and the grapes lose 1/4 of their original weight. The wine is only produced in good vintages. Destemming and pressing of the grapes takes place. There is a selection of the must and fermentation at a controlled temperature 14 to 16 degrees C in barrels of 2,500 liters. The residual sugar is 110 to 120 g/L. The wine is aged in oak barrels of 200 liters for about two years and in glass for 6 months before release. This is a dessert wine with ripe fruit, hints of apricot and quince with a very long finish taste and nice aftertaste.IMG_6863

Michele made an Upside Down Meyer Lemon Cake which she adapted from the clementine cake her new book The Italian Vegetable Cookbook”. The citrus flavor of the cake enhanced the flavors of the dessert wine.

For more information about the dinner, see Diane’s blog

https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/a-feast-for-la-befana/

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Filed under Andre Clouet champagne, Champagne, Flaccianello, Fontana Candida, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Luna Mater, Pieropan-La Colombare, Recioto, Recioto di Soave, Torre Ercolana