Category Archives: Passito

Locanda Borboni

Salvatore Fraterrigo, the chef/owner at both locations of Norma Gastronomia Siciliana in Manhattan (one of my favorite restaurants), and Maurizio De Rosa, a chef, pizzaiolo, restaurateur and Italian wine expert, told me that they were planning to open a new restaurant together in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Salvatore is from Trapani, Sicily and Maurizio is from Napoli. rs=w_500,h_500,cg_true locanda

In an homage to their culinary roots, the restaurant would feature the food of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as the Italian region south of the Papal States from Naples through Sicily was once known.  The restaurant is named Locanda Borboni, a reference to the Bourbons who once ruled there.   Michele and I looked forward to trying it.

Located on Grand Street, Brooklyn, the restaurant has a cozy front room, a long bar and large backyard garden.  Maurizio greeted us and soon we were contemplating the menu and wine list and nibbling on olives and bread.


Extra virgin olive oil with homemade bread in the Neapolitan style, both white and whole grain wheat, made from organic flour.  Both breads were full of flavor with a firm, chewy crust.

IMG_7266Olives — Assorted black and green marinated with celery, carrots and herbs

IMG_7268Two different types of croquettes, one the classic Neapolitan style made with a filling of mashed potatoes, salame and mozzarella and the other crocche’ di baccala’, made with mashed potatoes, and salt cod crusted with sesame seeds.  The crunchy coatings formed a good contrast with the tasty fillings.

IMG_7269Eggplant Parmesan – Called Parmigiana di Melanzane del Monzu’, eggplant, mozzarella, prosciutto and tomato sauce baked with an egg and Parmesan topping in the style of the Monzu’ chefs.

IMG_7270Peperone di Piedigrotta — roasted peppers molded around a savory filling of bread, anchovies, olives, pine nuts, raisins and anchovies.

IMG_7267 2Cacc’ e Mmitte di Lucera DOC (Northern Puglia}, Agricole Alberto Longo, made from  55% Nero di Troia, 30% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and 15% Bambino Bianco from a 6.5 hectare vineyard planted in 2002. The soil is calcareous with a sandy loam texture. Fermentation is with selected yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with prolonged contact of the must with the skins. Malolactic fermentation takes place in September. There is a light filtering and fining of the wine. The alcohol is 14%. The wine has hints of black cherry, plum, a touch of blueberries and a note of chocolate.

I have enjoyed the wines from Alberto Longo for a long time and was glad to see this one on Locanda Borboni’s carefully selected and well-priced wine list.

IMG_7273Paccheri Pasta al Ragu Napoletano — Traditional slow cooked beef and meat ragu’.

IMG_7278La Pastiera — the classic Neapolitan wheat berry and ricotta cake flavored with orange flour water.  Though originally an Easter cake, in Naples it is now enjoyed year-round.

IMG_7279Profiteroles — cream puffs filled with pastry cream and coated in a rich chocolate sauce.  Irresistible.

IMG_7281Passito IGT (Calabria) “Milirosu” Masseria Falvo 1727 (Calabria) made from 100% Moscatello. The soil is sandy clay and the vineyard is at 250 /300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Manual harvest takes place in September. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Aging is in stainless steel for 6 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. The winery is organic. The wine has hints of dried and candied fruits including figs, raisins and dates with a seductively sweet almost honey like but not cloying flavor because of the good acidity.

Our first meal at Locanda Borboni was great and we look forward to returning soon to try the pizza, seafood, meats and other pastas from Southern Italy.

 Locanda Borboni  284 Grand Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

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Filed under Alberto Longo, Locanda Borboni, Passito

Roberto Di Filippo: Horses, Geese and Organic Wine

A few months ago, the Wine Media Guild did a tasting of wines made from native Italian grapes that are not very well known. Some of the wines were real gems, but one produced by Roberto Di Filippo that was made from the Trebbiano Spoletino grape really stood out.

Elisa Bosco of PR Vino, who organized the wines for the tasting, later asked me if I wanted to attend a tasting featuring more of the wines of Roberto Di Filippo. She said that Roberto would present the wines.

Roberto Di Filippo

Roberto is a very engaging and informative speaker and you can hear the passion when he speaks about his wines.

The Di Filippo winery is 30-hectares and overlooks Assisi on the hills between Torgiano and Montefalco in the heart of Umbria. Roberto and his sister Emma own it.

It is situated in Cannara and nearby is Pian d’Arca, where St. Francis spoke to the birds.

Plani Arche is 6-hectares of vineyards owned by Roberto Di Filippo and his wife Elena. Roberto said that they have a tradition of cultivation which respects nature, as they strongly believe in the need to find a constant balance between man, soil, flora and fauna. He has introduced a number of different ecologically friendly systems.

Agroforestry is a land use system of land management involving simultaneous cultivation of farm crops, trees and shrubs. It combines shrubs and trees in agriculture and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, ecologically sound and sustainable land use systems. As part of this they use workhorses in the vineyard to do the cultivation and to solve the problem of soil compression. Roberto said they raise geese within the Plani Arche vineyard. He said a number of times he is first of all a farmer and that everything depends on what happens in the vineyards.

Since 1994 the wines have been cultivated organically, and biodynamic cultivation was introduced some years ago. They are certified organic according to E. U. regulations for the Plani Arche vineyard.

It can be a little confusing as Roberto makes the same wines under both the Di Filippo and Plani Arche label.

The difference for me between them is that the Di Filippo wines were bigger and more intense, while the Plani Arche wines were more elegant.

The wines

Trebbiano Spoletino “Farandola” (Umbria) 2016 IGT Di Filippo made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino

The soil is clayey-calcareous and the vineyards are on hillsides. Training method is guyot and there are 4,600 vines per hectare. Fermentation takes place off the skins at 18 degrees C and the wines remain in stainless steel until bottled. This is a fruity wine, rich in flavor with hints of citrus. It has good acidity and minerality. It is one of the best examples of Trebbiano I have ever tasted. Roberto said the Trebbiano Spoletino is native to Umbria and is different from other Trebbiano grapes.

Trebbiano Spoletino IGT 2016 Plani Arche made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. There are 4,400 plants per hectare. Fermentation is off the skins at a low temperature. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel casks for 4 months. This is a fresh and complex wine with citrus flavors and aromas and buttery notes.

Grechetto Colli Martani DOC 2016 Plani Arche 100% made from Grechetto. The vines are spur cordon/guyot trained; and there are 4,000/5,000 plants per hectare temperature. The wine is aged in steel casks on the less and then in bottle before release. This is a fruity wine with a hint of spice and a touch of almond in the aftertaste.

Grechetto IGT Bianco dell’Umbria IGT 2016 Plani Arche made from 100% Grechetto from hillside vineyards. This wine is produced without the addition of sulfites.

The soil is clayey-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 plants per hectare.

Montefalco Rosso DOC Plani Arche made from 60% Sangiovese, 25% Barbera and 15% Sagrantino. The soil is clayey-calcareous, the training system is guyot and cordone and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Fermentation takes place for 10 days. The wine is aged in large casks for 12 months. This is a wine that is ready to drink now. It has hints of ripe red fruit, a touch of cherry, pomegranate and a long finish and very pleasing after taste. I took the half empty bottle home with me to have with dinner.

Sagrantino is a grape that is very dark in color and has a lot of tannin. Roberto has managed to tame the grape and produce a wine that is food friendly.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG “Brown Label” 2013 Plani Arche100% Sagrantino. There are 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are hand-picked to ripen well and are left to macerate for a few days. This is an intense wine with a persistent fruity taste and hints of pomegranate and spice.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2013 Di Filippo made from 100% Sagrantino. The soil is clayey-calcareous, there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is the same as the wine belo wine below. This is a full-bodied wine, tannic with hints of red fruit and a touch of flint.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG “Black Label” 2009 Plani Arche made from 100% Sagrantino. There is a prolonged traditional maceration and the wine is aged in barriques and tonneaux for 18/24 months.

This is a full-bodied wine with intense red berry aromas and flavors and a hint of flint and spice. This wine will age.

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito Plani Archi made from 100% Sagrantino. The drying period (appassimento) lasts for 2 months and a subsequent maceration in the winter period. Aging takes place in stainless steel and barriques. This is an intense fruity wine with hints of black and red fruit, especially blackberries with a long finish and pleasing after taste. I liked this wine so much I took the open 375 bottle home with me.

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Filed under Amarone, Di Filippo, Montefalco, Passito, Plani Arche

Firriato: Sicilian Wine at its Best

I have a long history with the wines of Firriato from Sicily. When I was the wine director for I Trulli restaurant in NYC, I was introduced to them by one of the wine salespeople. Knowing my taste, he believed that I would like the wines and he was right.

Next, Michele and I went to Sicily where we visited the Firriato estate near Trapani. We were treated to a typical Sicilian lunch paired with their wines and learned to appreciate them even more. Then, a few years ago I attended a lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in NYC where I enjoyed the more current vintages.
Recently, I was asked if I wanted to taste a number of samples from the winery and I accepted gladly.

The winery

Firriato is a family run business; the president is Salvatore Di Gaetano, the CEO is Vinzia Novara Di Gaetano, the COO Is Federico Lombardo di Monte Iato, and the Chairman is Irene Di Gaetano Lombardo di Monte Iato.

Firriato is comprised of 6 estates, four of which are near Trapani: Baglio Soria, Borgo Guanini — the largest with over 140 hectares of vineyards, Pianoro Cuddia and the Dagala Borromeo. On the east coast near Mount Etna is the Cavanera estate that has 11 hectares of vines. Off the coast of Trapani are the Egadi Islands. The Calamoni estate is on the island of Favignana.

The Wines

Le Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Bianco DOC 2016 made from Carricante and Catarrato from the territory of Castiglione di Sicily (Catania) at the Cavanera Estate. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage. The vineyards are on the northeastern side of the volcano at 720 meters. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage and there are 4,000 to 4,500 vines per hectare and the vines are cordon royat trained(trellises). Harvest is the second week of October. Fermentation lasts for 15 days. Vinification: soft pressing and fermentation at a controlled temperature. The wine remains for 3 months on the  lees in steel tanks with daily shaking and remains in bottle for two months before release. This is a fruity wine with hints of white peaches and pears.

Favinia “La Muciara” Bianco 2014 IGT Sicily. Made from Grillo, Catarratto and Zibibbo. The grapes were grown on the Island of Favignana off the west coast of Sicily. They are grown at the Tenuta Calamoni estate, which is two meters from the sea. The training system for the vines is alberello and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand during the first week in September and the grapes are placed in small baskets. In the winery soft pressing is followed by fermentation for 20 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and for 2 more months in bottle before release. The heat during the day and the ocean breeze make for a wine with a mineral character and good acidity. The vineyards are 10 years old.

Ribeca DOC Sicily 2013 made from 100% Perricone from the Pianoro Cuddia Estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil is clayey and the vineyards have a south/southwest exposure and are at 200 meters. The training system is guyot and there are 5,000/6,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are hand picked the third week of September and the first week of October. Fermentation is for 14 days at 26/28 degrees C. in temperature controlled steel tanks in to red wine tradition. The wine is aged for 10/12 months in French durmast barrique. The wine has hints of cherries and blueberries with a touch of prune and juniper.

Le Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Rosso DOC 2015 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the Cavanera Etna Estate at the Northern side of the Volcano at 700 meters. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage and the vines are cordon royat trained and there are 4,000 to 4,500 plants per hectare. Gapes are hand picked the 2nd and 3rd weeks in October. Fermentation lasts for 14 days. Vinification is carried out according to tradition. The wine is aged in durmast barriques for 6 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. The wine has hints of black cherry, prune with a touch of licorice.

Cavanera “Rovo delle Coturnie” Etna Rosso DOC 2013 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the Cavanera Etna Estate. The soil composition is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage. The vineyards are on the northeastern side of the volcano at 750 meters and there are 3,000 to 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand the 2nd and 3rd weeks of October. Fermentation is for 18 days. Vinification in frustum of cone shaped wooden, according to tradition. The wine is aged for 9 months in French barriques and for 6 months in Slovenian durmast. The wine has hints of red fruit, peach a hint of black pepper and good minerality.

Santgostino “Bagio Soria” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 made from Nero d’Avola and Syrah. The vineyards have a south/south westerly exposure and are at 200 meters. The soil is calcareous-clay and the vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot and there are 5,000/6,000 vines per hectare. Hand harvest the first week of September for the Syrah and the second week of September for the Nero’d Avola.
Traditional vinification in temperature controlled steel tanks.
The wine is aged for 8 months in American Durmast barriques and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, cherries and a touch of prune, clove and licorice.

Chiaramonte Terre Siciliane 2015 IGT 100% Nero d’Avola from Tenuta Dagala Borromeo in the Trapani countryside. The vineyards have a south/south-westerly exposure and are at 230 meters. The soil is mid-mixture, mostly clay, vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot and there are 5,000 to 5,500 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the third week of September. Fermentation lasts for 10 days. Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tank according to tradition. The wine is aged for 6 months in American durmast barrriques and in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of black cherries and blueberries with a touch of black pepper and cloves.

Harmonium Sicily DOC Sicily 2013 100% Nero d’Avola from the Borgo Guarini Estate. This is a “cru” from 3 vineyards: Ferla cru with a north-east exposure, Beccaccia cru with a south exposure and the Lepre cru with a south-east exposure. They are at 300 meters. The soil is calcareous-slime, there are 5,000/5,500 vines per hectare and the vines are cordon trained and spur pruned. Grapes are hand-picked the third week of September. Vinification in temperature controlled steel tanks according to tradition. The wine is aged for 12 months in French and American durmast barriques. This is a well-structured wine with hints of cherry, blueberries, prunes and a hint of pepper and nutmeg.

Passito IGT Sicily “L’ECRÙ” 2008  made from Moscato and a small amount of Malmsey from the Tenuta Borgo estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil here is of medium texture; mostly clay and the vineyards have a north-south exposure at 250/400 meters. There are 5,500 vines per hectare and the training is cordon spur pruned/guyot.
The harvest takes place the first week of September and the most mature grapes are hand harvested. The rest remain on the vines until they reach full maturity. Soft pressing of the grapes and the fermentation at controlled temperature lasts for 4 weeks. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. This is a very elegant dessert wine with aromas of candied orange peels, dried figs and dates. It has a clean but long finish and wonderful aftertaste.


Filed under Etna Bianco, Etna Rosso, Passito, Sicilian Wine, Sicily

De Conciliis Wine Dinner at Aroma Restaurant NYC

De Conciliis Wine Dinner at Aroma Restaurant NYC

As many of you know, I spend a lot of time in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast. I believe that the white wines of Campania come from the most diverse grapes and are the best wines that southern Italy has to offer. Therefore I was delighted to accept an invitation from Vito Polosa, Chef/Owner and Sommelier at Aroma restaurant in NYC for a dinner featuring the wines of De Conciliis in the Paestum region of Campania. Vito said he would match each of the wines with a dish from the Campania area

Vito Polosa of Aroma Restaurant

Vito Polosa of Aroma Restaurant

The speaker for the dinner was Dino Tantawi, owner of Vignaioli Selections, the importer and distributor of De Conciliis.  Dino has a great passion for Italian wine.  Anthony De Conciliis, a cousin of Bruno Conciliis, the owner of the winery, was also there. I had a long discussion with him about pizza restaurants in Naples and restaurants in Campania.

Dino told us that Bruno Conciliis has a respect for nature and the land. This means that the use of chemicals is kept to a minimum and the winery is moving from being organic to biodynamic and should be certified by 2015. Natural yeast is used whenever possible. The winery has been energy self-sufficient since 2007.

The Wines

Selim Spumante Brute NV made from Aglianico and Fiano.IMG_3949

Area of production is the Alto Clinto in Campania. The vineyards are at 750 ft with a southwest exposure. The soil is flinty, calcareous with mixed clay. The Charmat method is used to produce this sparkling wine. Dino said Fiano and the Aglianico are picked early while the Aglianico is still pink in color. The gapes are shipped to Valdobbiadene (famous for Prosecco) for fermentation. Dino explained that ripeness of the grapes causes a low PH balance of 3.1 giving the wine a dry and fresher taste on the palate. This is the first Aglianico-based sparkling wine produced in Campania. $21

Bruno Conciliis is a big jazz fan and if you read the name of the wine backward it is Miles in honor of a song by Miles Davis the jazz musician.

Cozza e Lardo

Crostino Cozza e Lardo

With the sparkling wine Vito served an assortment of appetizers including crostino “cozze e lardo,” with mussels and lard, which was a very good combination.IMG_3953

Donnaluna 2011 Made from 100% Fiano. The grapes are picked in the morning from 6 different vineyards. Then a few hours of cold maceration takes place after which the grapes are washed and then fermented. Dino said that the Fiano here was different from the Fiano di Avellino. The exposure is southeast and the soil is clay, tufo and mixed sand and rocks. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 6 days. The wine is then racked into stainless steel tanks where it remains for 5 months. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before it is released.$28IMG_3954

This was served with “pesce marinato”, marinated fish. Vito explained that this was a typical Neapolitan dish made from different fish and was left in the refrigerator and could be eaten when anyone felt hungry.

Someone asked why the name of the wine was written upside down on the label Dino said Bruno did it as a joke saying “if you drink from the bottle the name is in the right position!” The is a very elegant Fiano with good citrus  aromas and flavors, a hint of honey and almonds, nice minerality and good acidityIMG_3969

Greco di Tufo”Oro” DOCG  2011 100% Greco di Tufo-these grapes were purchased by Bruno from a friend. The vineyard is in La Sela-Fontanarosa (Avellino). The exposure is North-Northwest and the soil is chalk, volcanic and clay. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and batonnage is for two months. The wine is then racked into stainless steel tanks where it is aged for 7 months and 3 months in bottle before release. The wine was a golden color and Dino said that was because the wine spent some time on the lees. $20IMG_3970

With this wine we had one of my favorite dishes spaghettino vongole veraci e ciliegino napoletano, spaghetti with tiny clams and cherry tomatoes,  and it was perfection. This is a wine with a golden color, nice body, good fruit, a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.

Ra! (passito) Dino said that the wine is mostly Aglianico with a little Barbera. The grapes come from two different vineyards; Carpinet vineyard which is at 300 mts with a northern exposure and Cannetiello which is at 150 meters with a southwest exposure.  The soil is sandstone, soft marl and sandy shale and calcareous clay with sand. The harvest is at the end of October and the training system is single guyot.

The grapes are dried for six months (appassimento) in a shady ventilated area. Manual destemming and selection takes place. The wine is aged for 4 to 5 days in class demijohns. Dino said this was done to preserve the freshness and flavors of the wine.IMG_3990

With this dessert wine Vito served a traditional Neapolitan dessert, eggplant & chocolate tortino. What made it a perfect combination was the intense dark fruit aromas and flavors of the wine and the hint of cherry. Dino said that the wine was named after the Egyptian sun god “Ra”! because the wine is made from the concentrated power of the sun. This is a very special dessert wine and only a very small amount is made. At this time it is not available in the US.

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Filed under campania, De Concillis Winery, Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Passito, Ra! Passito, Sparkling wine, Spumante, Vignaioli selections, Vito Polosa

Champagne, Old Wine and Turkey

Thanksgiving lunch/dinner (linner) is traditionally served at 4:00PM at our house. This gives everyone the chance to eat and drink as much as they want and still not get home too stuffed or too late. Our Linner usually lasts for 5 to 6 hours. This year was no exception.

To start, Michele made persimmons wedges wrapped in prosciutto, followed by a chestnut soup, roast turkey with a fennel, sausage and rice stuffing and many side dishes.  Then we had a cheese course, followed by a hazelnut tar and caramel pumpkin pie for dessert.  We have been having Thanksgiving for several years with Tom Maresca and his wife Diane Darrow  Diane is a very excellent baker and brought a beautiful loaf of home made bread, as well as the hazelnut tart mentioned above.  Travis and Nicole joined us this year and brought some Champagne and old wines.

The WinesChampagne Grand Cru D’ay Füt de Chène Brut 2000 Henri Giraud. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay harvested exclusively in the terroir of Aÿ Grand Cru. The wine is aged in small barrels made from Argonne oak for 12 months. The first vintage was in 1990. This is a full and rich wine with aromas of pear, stone fruits and a hint of mushrooms. It has a long lasting finish.Champagne Curvèe William Durtz Brut Millesimè (prestige cuvee) 1999 (Aÿ) made from 62% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier. This is a well-structured, complex, elegant Champagne with hints of herbs, dried flowers and a touch of toast.

Torre Ercolana 1982 Cantina Colacicchi – Anagni  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cesanese dl Piglio  When this wine was produced, there were only 2 acres of vines and only 2,000 bottles were made, one fourth of them a white called Romagnano.

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, who has the exclusive rights to the wine. The wine does not always taste the same; this is 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.

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.”  Morey-Saint-Denis “Les Sorbets” 1976 Domine B. Serveau et Fils. Made from 100% Pinot Noir. The soil is limestone and clay and the 7 hectares of Pinot Noir are in the heart of the Côte de Nuits. The grapes are picked by hand and the wine is matured in oak casks for 18/22 months. The Premiers Crus are aged 2/10 years before coming to market. This is a wonderful wine with aromas of red fruit and blackberries, round with a silky fruity feeling on the palate. It was a pleasure to drink.Reciotto Secco “Amarone” Vino della Valpolicella 1960. Bertani. This is one of my favorite producers and I like Amarone on Thanksgiving.  With turkey and all the side dishes, it makes for a great combination. So I was very disappointed because the wine was too old and tasted like sherry. Travis brought the wine.  He had had a 1964 a few days before and said it was wonderful. You never know with old wines — you take your chances and hope for the best.Alicante Bouschet 1996 Russian River Vineyards (old vines), Sonoma Country Topolos, made from 100% Alicante Bouschet from the Sequoia View Vineyards. The wine is unrefined. It was bottled December 16, 1997. Since the Amarone was not good and it was Thanksgiving, the truly all-American holiday, I decided to try this wine. It was interesting but it seemed they were trying to make an old style wine but could not get away from all the modern techniques. It was unbalanced with too much alcohol.

The winery was sold and the name changed to Russian River Vineyards and I do not know if they still produce this wine.

Because we had a cheese course and two pies, it was time for the dessert wines.Montefalco Sagrantino D’Arquata Passito Abboccato DOC 1981 Adanti 100% Sagrantino The grapes are naturally dried for two months (appassimento) followed by a slow fermentation. The wine is aged in large Slovenian oak barrels (botti). They still make a passito but the word Abboccato does not appear on the label. The wine had aromas and flavors of dry fruit, blackberries and a dry aftertaste.Anghelu Ruju 1979 Vino Liquoroso Tradizional di Alghero  Sella & Mosca (Sardinia) 100% Cannonau. This is a late harvest and after the grapes are picked they are dried in the open air for a long time. There is a long oak aging in fusti (small oak barrels of 20/50 liters). This is an aromatic wine with hints of cinnamon and walnuts. I do not think it was produced after the 2003 vintage. We ended the meal with the last of my last bottle of Romano Levi Grappa, which I bought a few years ago just before the great grappa maker died.


Filed under Anghelu Ruju Vino Liquoroso, Burgundy, Champagne, Domaine b. Serveau et Fils, French Wine, Henri Giraud, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Passito, sagrantino, Topolos, Torre Ercolana

Easter “Linner” with Good Friends

We like to invite friends over for Easter “linner”, as I call it, my name for the meal somewhere between lunch and dinner. I prefer this time because enjoy a leisurely meal and still finish at a “decent” hour.  As usual, we stuck to my rule of one bottle less then the number of people so that everyone goes home relatively sober. There were 8 of us and there were 7 bottles of wine.

For the appetizer Michele made crostini with avocado and bottarga, salted mullet roe, which went very well with the Champagne.  Michele always makes lamb for Easter and since Bordeaux is a classic match with lamb we had three Bordeaux a 1990,1988 and 1966. One of the guests, knowing Michele likes Burgundy, brought a 1947.

The Wine

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Reserve 1998 (Rheims) 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay. This is a full-bodied champagne, round with fresh citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. Ed McCarthy in his book Champagne for Dummies says, ”The Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve Brut is a great Champagne and clearly Veuve Clicquot’s best buy.” 1988 was a very good vintage

Champagne Dom Pérignon Oenothéque 1996 disgorged in 2008. The Oenothêque (black label) indicates that a Dom Pérignon vintage has reached either its second peak in maturity, optimized intensity, 15 to 20 years after the harvest (the wine above), or its third peak, with optimized intensity after 30 years on the lees. The cellar master is the only one that can determine when the wine has reached that optimal stage in its evolution and only then will it be released as Oenothéque. This is a champagne with great length, structure and depth, nice fruit and just starting to show a hint of toast on the palate. 1996 was an excellant vintage.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1990 (Pauillac) 80-95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5-20% Cabernet Franc and 0-5% Petit Verdot, depending on the vintage. The wine is aged 18-20 months in new barrels. In 1990 the climate conditions were excellent. The yield was abundant and of outstanding quality. This is an elegant complex wine with hints of blackberries, smoke, leather, spice and a touch of vanilla in the very long finish. This wine will last for least 10 years or more.

Chateau Baron Pichon Longueville 1988 (Pauillac) 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 2% Malbec, the blend depends on the vintage. The wine is aged for 18-20 months in barrel. This wine is just starting to come around but should last for a number of years.

Chateau Montrose1966 (Saint-Estéphe) made from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 55% Cabernet Franc depending on the vintage. Aged in barrel from 22-24 months. In his book Bordeaux, Robert Parker states the following about this wine in 1985: “The 1966 Montrose is austere and tough on the palate, with good fruit and firm dusty tannins.”  I wonder:  what are dusty tannins? He says the anticipated maturity is between 1986 and 2010. This wonderful Bordeaux has reached full maturity.

Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Caretiers” 1947 Leroy Thanks to the kindness of friends I have been lucky enough to have drunk a few of the 1947’s from different producers. This is classic Burgundy at it best, a mature wine but not showing any real signs of age.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Passito 2006 100% Sagrantino Antonelli (Umbria)  As I mentioned in my last blog, the people of Montefalco have the passito with lamb on Easter Sunday. We tried it but most of the guests found it too sweet for the lamb. I guess you just have to be in Montefalco for Easter. Half bottle.

Passito di Pantelleria “Kbaggiar” NV Azienda Agricola Seraste (Sicily) This was a very pleasant dessert wine and a good way to end the dinner. Half bottle.


Filed under Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, French Red, Montefalco, Passito, sagrantino

Scacciadiavoli-Drive Away Devils

When I was the wine director for ITrulli and Vino (when it was an all Italian wine store), I would play opera in the store much to the annoyance of the owner. I am a great fan of Puccini and would play Turandot again and again. One of my favorite arias in the opera is Non Piangere Liù.

One day, a wine producer’s daughter arrived at the store for a brief internship in order to learn about the wide range of Italian wines before she went to study in Bordeaux.

Her name was Liù and her father’s winery is Scacciadiavoli (drive away devils) located in Montefalco in Umbria. She was surprised when I told her that I had been to Montefalco. Before I could ask about her unusual name, she said that her father liked Turandot so he named her Liù.


Whenever I gave wine classes, Liù would sit in and we talked about wine whenever we had a chance.  The weeks went by quickly and she thanked me for all my help before she was off to Bordeaux.  A few years later, I saw Liu in Montefalco and she thanked me again saying that when she had arrived in Bordeaux to study, she made a big hit because she was the only one of the students that knew about Italian wine.

April 2012 is Sagrantino month in NYC and I was invited to a number of events.  One was at Tarallucci & Vino, one of my favorite restaurants in NYC and Liù was there presenting her wines.

The wines of Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli di Pambuffetti

Grechetto Dell’Umbria IGT 2010, made from 100% Grechetto. The harvest takes place the first ten days of September. Vinification takes place in steel tanks on the lees and malolatic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in bottle for 3 months before release. Grechetto is a native Umbrian varietal. Liu said that this was a wine to be enjoyed when it is young. She described it being fresh and fruity with floral hints and good acidity.

Montefalco Rosso DOC 2008 made from 60% Sangiovese 25% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot. The harvest takes place from the middle of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in different sized oak barrels: used barriques, tonneaux, and 30HL barrels for 12 months. She said that the wine from each different type of barrels is blended together to make the final blend. It is aged in bottle for 6 months before release.

The Sangiovese is for the acidity and the Merlot for the fruit. She added that their soil is mostly clay and Merlot does very well here. Other grapes beside Merlot can be used such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Colorino up to 15%. The wine has aromas and flavors of fresh fruit with hints of spice and good acidity. It has a long finish and a pleasant aftertaste See…

Montefalco Sagantino DOCG 2005 100% Sagrantino Harvest takes place from the middle to the end of October. If I understood Liu correctly she said that the aging was the same as for the Montefalco Rosso but it remains in wood for 16 months and in bottle for 9 months before release. Liu said that the 2005 vintage was given 5 stars, the highest rating by the Montefalco Consortium.

Liù said the Sagrantino is a big wine with a dark color and a lot of tannin and can age for a long time.

For me Sagrantino is one of the great wines of Italy but it is not very well know in this country. It is an elegant, complex wine with rich red fruit aromas and flavors of spice and leather, good acidity and a long finish. 

Montefalco Sagantino Passito DOCG 2004 100% Sagrantino.   Harvest is from the middle to the end of September. The grapes are dried on “graticci” (mats) until mid December.…sting-the-wine/ For more information on Sagrantino.

Vinification takes place in steel tanks. The wine is aged in new barrels for 16 months and in bottle for 9 months before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of sweet dried fruits, and hints of blackberry, blueberry and spice, a long finish and lingering aftertaste. Liu said that in Montefalco this passito is drunk with lamb for Easter.


Filed under Momtefalco, Montefalco, Passito, sagrantino, Scacciadiavoli