Category Archives: Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo

Tasting Abruzzo’s Talamonti Wines

In June I was invited on press trip to Abruzzo, a region of Italy I have visited several times. The Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo sponsored the trip which was organized by Marina Nedic, executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). The trip lasted 4 days. 

On the third day there was a Grand Wine Tasting of Abruzzo wines at Palazzo D’Avalos in Vasto. The first part was a sit down tasting followed by lunch al fresco. As I was having lunch and enjoying a glass of Pecorino, one of my favorite white wines from Abruzzo perfect on a hot day, someone stopped by to say hello. It was Rodrigo Redmont.IMG_7642 I met Rodrigo when he was a wine salesperson in NYC.  We talked about different people we knew and the wine business in NYC.  After lunch there was a walkaround tasting and Rodrigo asked me to come by and taste the wines of the Talamonti Winery. Later I found out Rodrigo is the president of Talamonti Winery!

Talamonti was founded in 2001 by the Redmont-Di Tonno family in an unspoiled part of Abruzzo. The winery has expanded to 45 hectares in the municipality of Loreto Aprutino (Pescara). The vineyards circumnavigate the winery and are at 300 meters with a southeast exposure in the Tavo Valley region.

The wines I tasted

IMG_7638Pecorino Superiore Abruzzo “Trabocchetto”  Made from 100% Pecorino. The area of production is Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The vineyard planting took place between 2004-2011. There is a hand harvest in mid-September. The grape stalks are removed and the grapes undergo a cold maceration in stainless steel. A soft pressing follows. The clarified must is fermented with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12 days at 12C to preserve the 100% natural Pecorino fruitiness and inimitable freshness of the wine. The wine has hints of pear and apple with a note of ginestra flowers, a touch of jasmine and a gentle acidity. 

IMG_7536Rodrigo said the link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and our roots represents the basis for the selection of all the names of Talamonti wines. The term Trabocchetto was selected for its historical importance to the Abruzzo’s fishing tradition. According to local historians, the trabocco (or trabucco) was a fishing innovation imported from the Middle East with literature references dating back to the 18th Century. These ancient fishing machines were quickly adopted throughout the Adriatic Coast. Built exclusively out of wood, the construction permitted fisherman to fish in the worst of weather conditions. The trabocco is a wooden platform that stretches out to the sea and is anchored to large rocks. Long arms or antennas soar above and sustain an enormous net called “trabocchetto”. Today a few have been turned into restaurants.

IMG_7639 2Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Aternvm” made from 100% Trebbiano D’Abruzzo from Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1975-1980. Vinification is the same as the wine above. The wine is aged for several months in 300 liter French oak barrels (30%) and in stainless steel(70%) with repeated batonnages before the wine is bottled. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime and a touch of spice with a pleasant acidity. It is a wine that can age for a few years.

Rodrigo said the choice to link the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, prince of white grapes of the Abruzzo, to one of the most important landmarks of the area was clear. The first inhabitants of the area founded only 20 km away a village on the banks of the Aternum River, naming it “Vicus Aterni”. The village remains are still visible today in modern-day Pescara. A few centuries later the name was changed to “Aternum”, in honor of the river itself, which gives its name to the wine.

IMG_7640Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Tre Saggi” Selected vineyards located near the village of Loreto Aprutino in the Monrpulciano d’Abruzzo DOC zone. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The soil is stony calcareous and drained and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. The grape stalks are removed. Alcoholic fermentation with skin contact takes place with selected yeasts during 14 days with periodic pumping over. Malolactic fermentation is in 300 liter French oak barrels (Allier and Troncais). Then the wine is aged for 12 months in 300 liter French oak barrels. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of violets, wild berries, blackberries, cherry, spice, a hint of hazelnut and a touch of coffee. This wine should age for at least 10 years.

Their link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and their roots represent the basis for all the names selected for Talamonti wines. Therefore, the choice to link the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape, the region’s principal red grape to one of the region’s most important landmarks, was obvious. The name “Tre Saggi” (The Three Wise Men) stems from three figures present in a fresco found in the Church of Santa Maria in Piano, located only 4km from the Talamonti vineyard-estate.

IMG_7641Rosso IGP Colin Pescaresi “Kudos” made from 80%  Montepulciano and 20% Merlot. The soil  is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is guyot/overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1995-2000. The two varieties are hand harvested separately in early October  for best ripening. They are vinified separately with 15-22 days of maceration. They are aged separately in 300 liter French oak barriques (Troncais and Allier) for 12 months. The wines are then blended and aged for another 12 months in 300 liter French oak barriques. The wine remains in the bottle until it is ready for release. The wine has hints of cherries, blueberries, currents, oak, spices and vanilla. 

Rodgrigo said the name “Kudos” was selected in order to transmit the message that their best parcel of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Merlot are blended together to produce their pinnacle wine. They wanted a non-Italian name to clearly communicate that there was a non-traditional varietal in the blend.

It was a pleasure to see Rodrigo in Abruzzo and I was very happy to be introduced to his wines.

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Slow Wine US Tour 2022

Slow Wine presented its Slow Wine Guide 2022 at Eataly Downtown in NYC with a tasting of wines from over 100 producers that are included in the guide.

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The following is the Slow Wine statement of what they represent:

The Slow Wine Guide evaluates over 400 different wineries and treats each with the utmost respect and attention. The Slow Wine team prides itself on the human contact it has with all producers, which is essential to the guide’s evaluations. While other guides limit their relationship to a blind tasting and brief write up, Slow Wine takes the time to get personal with each winery in order to create a well-informed, detailed review of the wines themselves and the people behind the production. Slow Wine selects wineries that respect and reflect their local terroir and practice sustainable methods that benefit the environment. And for the first time ever, those wineries that receive the snail or the official Slow Wine seal are 100% free of chemical herbicides, a quality that the Slow Wine Guide continues to passionately support.

As I was walking around the tasting area, I was called over by Davide Acerra from the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo. I had met Davide on a press trip to Abruzzo 3 years ago. He invited me to taste some of the wine. We started with Trebbiano di Abruzzo.

The WineIMG_6683

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo “Costalupo” 2019 Illuminati made from 100% Trebbiano from vineyards at 270 meters. The training system is pergola trellis and rows. Harvest takes place by hand at the end of September. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  This is a fruit forward wine with hints of citrus, stone fruit and a touch of white flowers and crisp acidity. The wine remains in bottle for a time before release. It is an easy drinking wine. $16

IMG_6682Trebbiano D’ Abruzzo  DOC 2019 “Anfora” Francesco Cirelli made from 100% Trebbiano from their own vineyards and some from rented vineyards. The soil is limestone and clay. Harvest is by hand. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and then transferred into clay amphoras for 24 hours maceration. The skins are separated from the juice and softly pressed before the indigenous yeasts take over and the fermentation process takes place for 20 days.The resulting wine then rest and refines in the amphoras for 12 months. There is no fining. There is filtration before bottling with 1 micron carbides. The wine has hints of stone fruit, citrus, hay, peach with a touch of honey and good acidity. $28  This is a bargain for the price.

IMG_6684Trebbiano D’Abruzzo  2019 Tiberio made from a massal selection of Trebbiano with average age of 60 years. The vineyard is 2.5 hectares and is at 380 meters. The soil is mainly limestone with a gravel sandy subsoil and the training system is tendone (canopy). There are 2,500 wines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested at the end of September. The grapes are not pressed and only the free run juice is used. Alcoholic fermentation is in stainless steel takes and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has hints of apricot, jasmine, anise and green apple with a note of almonds in the aftertaste. $20. I have had wines by this producer and have always been impressed.

IMG_6685Trebbiano D”Abruzzo 2019  Amorotti, Gaetano Caboni made from 100% Trebbiano. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters with a south east exposure. Spontaneous fermentation takes place with native yeasts. The wine is filtered but not fined.  Aging is in untoasted tonneaux for one year. The wine has hints of chamomile, yellow plums, lemon peel, white flowers and flinty minerality. This a a very impressive wine and well worth the money. $38

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco. $31

Just before I left, I tasted a favorite Vernaccia di San Gimignano

IMG_6676Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2019 Campo della Pieve IL Colombaio di Santa Chiara made from 100% Vernaccia. The 1.5 hectare vineyard is at 360 to 400 meters and there are 5,500 vines per hectare. The soil is old Pilocene, which is sand and clay, and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest by hand is the end of September and beginning of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation takes place with indigenous yeasts at a controlled temperature. Maturation is on the lees in cement vats with periodic batonnage for 18/20 months. This is a complex and aromatic wine with hints of ripe yellow stone fruit, citrus, white flowers and toasted almonds and a very nice finish. $21

Another time, more about the Slow Wine event.

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Filed under Abruzzo, Slow Wine, Slow Wine Guide 2012, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Verrnaccia

Tasting the wines of Abruzzo

The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies , it is considered part of the South.

I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food from that region. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.

It was with pleasure that I accepted an invitation to attend a tasting of the wines of Abruzzo from

IMG_6503The Charming Estates of Europe, a special project that links the flavors of wine from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece and introduce them to the United States and Canada. The event was called The Charming Taste of Europe.

IMG_4649The organizer and speaker of the event was Susannah Gold and it was held at IL Gattopardo one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  Susannah is a true wine professional and it is always a pleasure to attend one of her events.  She went into great detail on the region of Abruzzo and the wines.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.  The three most important wine designations are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with very little skin contact and it can be light pink to dark red.

The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo.

Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

The Wines

IMG_6481Pecorino Superiore 2020 Abruzzo DOC Poderi  Antonio Costantini made from 100% Pecorino. The exposure is south/south east and the soil is clay. The training system is spalliera (vertical trellis trained with replacement cane pruning) and there is a manual selection of the grape bunches at full maturity. Grapes are soft pressed and then the juice is left to rest for a number of hours at a cold temperature. When the temperature is raised to 16/18C alcoholic fermentation takes place. The wine remains in stainless steel for a time and then is stabilized before bottling. This is a very pleasant wine with floral notes, hints of citrus fruit, apple, anise and field grasses.

IMG_6485Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Maiale — We had homemade square spaghetti in a rich pork ragu, a local specialty.

IMG_6482Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2019 Riserva “Marina Cretic”   made from 100% Trebbiano  Tenuta Agricole Masciarelli The training system is the Abruzzo Pergola.  Harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation is in wood for 15/30 days. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. The wine has hints of ripe tropical fruit, caramel, honey and vanilla.

IMG_6489Cerasuolo  Abruzzo  DOC 2020 Valori (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The vineyards are at 300 meters and the training system is simple guyot, spurred cordon. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place between October 10th and 15th. The juice  is in contact with the skins for 24  hours. Racking and soft pressing takes place. Cold fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. This is a rose’ light pink in color with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds.

IMG_6493Patate Maritate — Potatoes with cheese, sausage and herbs.

IMG_6484Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2019 Francesco Cirelli (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The soil is clay and limestone and the training system is guyot. Harvest is at the end of September and the beginning of October. Harvest is manual. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and there is a 12 day maceration, spontaneous fermentation in amphora with indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged for 12 months in amphora.  The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and a touch of strawberry.

IMG_6494Brodetto alla Vastese — Our next course was a variety of seafood in a flavorful sauce.

IMG_6490Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2017 “Ruberò”  Cantina Frentana made from 100% Montepulciano. The vineyards are in the municipality of Rocca San Giovanni, situated on hills overlooking the Costa del Trabocchi with a south/southeastern exposure. The soil is medium textured and calcareous. Harvest is manual the second week in October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with maceration and fermentation with the skins for 10/15 days in small stainless steel fermenters at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French tonneau oak barrels for  for about 14 months, then more aging in stainless steel and then in the bottle for a few months. The wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, violets with a note of spice and leather.

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco.

In a future blog, I will report on the sweet wines of Bordeaux which were served at the end of the meal with dessert.

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Thanksgiving 2020

Like most of us this year, our Thanksgiving plans were curtailed by Covid concerns.  Michele had been planning a non-traditional yet all-American menu, but when friends decided not to join us for health reasons, the elaborate menu no longer made sense.  She simplified the menu to suit just four diners.

It was just last week that I wrote that we rarely eat steak at home.  But having enjoyed that one, we decided it would be a good choice for our main course for four.

IMG_3837The Wines

IMG_3816 2We started with Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs, a classic Avize Brut. The soil is chalky marls. There is a long aging in bottle before and after disgorgement. It is an assemblage of three successive vintages from lower slope sites. It is released an average of five years after the most recent harvest in the blend. The dosage is 5g/l. Disgorged Oct. 2008. This is a complex Champagne with hints of melons, dried citrus fruits and a touch of white flowers and brioche. The role oxygen plays is very important and all of the Selosse wines have the trademark oxidation which adds more complexity to the wine. A few weeks ago at a friend’s home I attended a Zoom tasting of the wines of Anselme and Guillaume Selosse. I enjoyed the wines and was happy to taste one of them again.

IMG_3795After a stormy start, Thanksgiving afternoon was sunny and bright and we were able to begin our celebration with a festive toast outdoors on our terrace.  To go with the Champagne we had warm gougeres, parmesan cheese puffs.

IMG_3820Fiorano Bianco Vino da Tavola 1980 Azienda Agricola Boncompagni   made from 100% Semillon. My favorite red wine may just be the Fiorano Rosso (those produced before 1996).  The Bianco I always had trouble with and this bottle, while drinkable, was not showing very well.

IMG_3810Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1990 Edoardo Valentini made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is a great white wine but this bottle was showing its age and  seemed to have off aromas and flavors.

IMG_3813Meursalt-1990 “Perrieres”   Pierre Matrot made from 100% Chardonnay. I do not know how this wine was produced since the winery changed its way of making wine in 2000. This is a full-bodied white wine with hints of peach, apricot and a touch of honey. It has a wonderful finish and a long aftertaste.

The Table

IMG_3797Our first course was a chestnut soup with whipped cream and grappa, a recipe from Chef Fabio Trabocchi.  Because it was so rich and flavorful, Michele served it in small cups.  We would definitely enjoy having this soup again.

IMG_3817Mazia-Chambertin 1990 Domaine Maume made from 100% Pinot Noir from 75-year-old vines. The vineyard is .64 ha and the soil is clay limestone. There is a separate vinification of individual parcels. The clusters are 100% de-stemmed. The wine is aged for 18 to 20 months in mostly older barrels and bottled without fining or filtration. This wine was not ready to drink. It was too young and more thean half the bottle was left. Michele and I drank it for lunch the next day and it was wonderful.

IMG_3799 2Michele’s original menu included a prime rib roast, but with just two guests, she downsized the menu to two thick Angus beef strip loin steaks.  With them we had roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, as well as extra-buttery mashed potatoes.

Chianti Classico 1970 Fattoria Santa Cristina- L& P Antinori. I believe the grapes were Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo, and a small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. The wine had great color and was drinking like traditional Chianti, with hints of red fruit, cherries, blueberries, leather and a touch of violets. We all agreed it was a wonderful wine and was the wine of the evening.

Cheese course consisted of La Tur, Alta Badia and Sardinian pecorino.

IMG_3793Rather than pie, Michele made 3 Fruit Crisp, with apples, pears and cranberries, baked under a crunchy oatmeal and brown sugar topping.  The tangy fruit was complemented by the pumpkin pie and 4 flavors of ice cream supplied by our guests.

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Dessert ready to be served


Chianti Classico 1960
Villa Antinori made from Sangiovese with Cannaiolo and Colorino and the white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia. They may have also used the governo method (drying 10% of the grapes). The wine was showing its age and was not drinking well.

We finished, as always, with espresso and grappa.

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Filed under Antinori, Champagne Substance Jacques Selosse, Chianti Classico, Fiorano Bianco, Meursalt Pierre Matrot, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Valentini

Grilling Outside-Eating Inside

Fall was approaching but there was still time for one more barbecue.  But the day turned chilly and we wound up eating indoors.

While the grill was heating, we ate crostini, one topped with mozzarella and anchovies and the other with Michele’s eggplant, pepper and tomato spread.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Fonte Canale” 2011 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from old vines from Tiberio. The vineyard is at 300 meters, there are 2,500 vines/hectare and the training system is the tendone (vines form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun). Harvest takes place the last week of September. Cold maceration on the skins lasts for 6 hours. Vinification takes place in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains in the bottle for a short period before release. This is a full bodied white wine with citrus aromas and flavors and a hint of herbs.

Barbera D’Asti “Vigna del Noce” 1997 Az. Agr. Trinchero made from 100% Barbera and the vines were planted in 1929. The soil is a mixture of clay and the exposure is southwest and the vineyard is at 250 meters. The training system is guyot. Traditional fermentation with natural yeasts lasted for 40 days. I believe the 1997 was aged for 5 years in 90 year old chestnut casks. The winery is strictly organic.  This is a full-bodied robust wine with hints of cherries, plum, and leather, balsamic touches and a note of smoke. This is a very impressive Barbera.

 

Hamburgers and three different types of sausages, sweet, spicy and chicken on the grill

Sausages ready to eat

Hamburgers in the bun

Spanna 1964 Castello di Montalbano Vallana  made from Nebbiolo 85% (local name Spanna). According to Wasserman  in his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, producers blended in a number different grapes, Vespolina and Bonarda for example, as well as Aglianico from Campania. The wine was drinking very well with red fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of rasperries and a touch of leather. For a wine from Novara-Vercelli area of northern Piedmont that is  56 years old to have the dark color that it did there had to be Aglianico in the blend. The wine was a pleasure to drink

Sliced tomatoes  and  red  onions  accompanied  the  meat.

And Sicilian style potato and green bean salad  with  capers,  olives,  red  onion, oregano  and  olive  oil.

We ended with an assortment of ice creams and biscotti.

The table

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A Lunch in Rome to Remember

 

Reservations at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina in Rome are hard to get even when there are few tourists in town. Livia Alyson Careaga, an old friend who is in the wine business, suggested we meet there for lunch and said she would make the reservation.  That was fine by us since the place is always crowded and service can at times be rushed.

Michele and I arrived first and all I said to the receptionist was “Livia.” She broke out in a smile and replied, “of course,” and showed us to a table.  While we waited, a waiter appeared and poured us complementary glasses of champagne.  He could not have been nicer and we realized we had never received such a warm welcome at Roscioli before and it was because of Livia.  When she arrived, Livia introduced him as Maurizio, and he poured her some champagne and told us the day’s specials.

Maurizio took our order and brought out a few dishes for us to try as we waited. In fact he brought out so much we had to cancel one of the courses.   

First out was a basket of pizza rosa, slices of crisp, thin focaccia slathered with tomato sauce.  Romans eat this for a snack throughout the day and stop in at the nearby Roscioli Bakery to buy it by the slice to eat out of its brown paper wrapper.

Fresh Cantabrea anchovies with olives on focaccia came next, a favorite of mine.

We also had burrata cheese stuffed with gorgonzola, something we had never had before.  It was served with cubes of ripe pear.

After the champagne, we ordered the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014 made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo by Edoardo Valentini

The winery is organic and biodynamic. They only keep 10% of the production, the rest is sold to a local co-op. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months, I believe. I visited the winery a number of years ago. Edoardo (d.2006) spent all the time talking to us about the terroir, the grapes and the vineyards.  He did not speak about how the wine was produced.This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and peach, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe. It is a great white wine. When I am in Italy I drink this wine whenever I see it on the wine list because it is less costly than you can buy it retail in the USA.

Roscioli is famous for their pasta alla Carbonara.  It was fantastic.

 

Michele had rigatoni alla Matriciana, which was excellent.

Livia had fettuccine with ragu, the pasta special.

Our second wine was the Chianti Classic Reserve 2006 from Castell’INVilla made from 100% Sangiovese sourced from the best vineyards on the property at the southeast corner of Castelnuovo Berardengo. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the soil is alluvial with pebbles and a mixture of lime, clay and sand. Harvest is by hand the second half of September and early October.  There is natural fermentation with native yeasts is stainless steel tanks for 12 to 14 days. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak for 24 to 36 months. The wine is released a year or two after other producers’ wines. This is a Chianti Classico that can age and I have had a number of older bottles. The wine was hints of plum, black cherry, violets and a touch of licorice. I picked the white wine and Livia picked this one. I was happy she did.

Last was the lamb chops, the famous baby lamb of Rome, cooked perfectly.  Just then, the chef stopped by to say hello and we complimented him on the delicious meal.  He was very gracious and explained how he prepares some of the dishes.

 

Crunchy cannoli filled with sheeps’ milk ricotta topped with candied fruits and pistachios came out next.

Some beautiful little pastries appeared next, though we were too full to appreciate them.

In fact, we were having such a good time talking and drinking that we lost track of time. We were in the restaurant for over 4 hours, missing a 4:30 appointment.

This was our last meal in Rome for this trip and it was one that we will always remember.  Thanks to Livia Alyson for inviting us there and to the staff at Roscioli for their hospitality and good food and and wine.    We left the next day a few days ahead of schedule because of concerns about travel during the coronavirus crisis.  We hope to return soon!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Castellin Villa, Chianti Classico, Riscioli, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized, Valentini

Norma: Sicilian Food at its Best

Norma Gastronomia Siciliana in Manhattan is a restaurant that I frequent because of the great food and warm atmosphere.

I have probably tried everything on the menu and friends often ask me to recommend my favorite dishes.  These are some, though not all, of the foods that I often enjoy.

Caponata con crostini e mandorle–Eggplant, celery, green olives, onions, tomato, sweet and savory seasoning, toasted almonds served with crostini.

I like to have the Caponata with the focaccia, hot from the pizza oven.

Panelle– Fried chickpea fritters with garlic and parsley aglio olio sauce.Arancini al Ragu –Saffron rice ball stuffed with Bolognese meat sauce, green peas and served over tomato sauce.

Rianata pizza — Sicilian style with garlic, tomatoes, herbs and anchovies.

Cabucci Porchetta — hot flatbread sandwich with roasted porchetta, arugula, provolone cheese, and herbs.

Timballo di melanzane alla parmigiana- Eggplant parmigiana timbale with mozzarella & parmigiana cheese, basil and tomato sauce.

Pasta Alla Norma — Imported durum paccheri from Gragnano, large tubular pasta with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, eggplant, basil and ricotta salata cheese.

Anelletti Alla Palermitana in Casseruola – Tiny ring shaped baked pasta baked in a casserole with beef & pork ragu, green peas, Italian ham, eggplant, primo sale and ricotta salata cheeses, and basil

 

Cannoli – House made cannoli filled with sheep milk ricotta and pistachios.

Almond Semifreddo with Chocolate  Sauce

Cassata — Sicilian cheesecake

The Wine

Champagne Egly Ouriet   1990 made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from 100% Grand Cru Ambonnay from 50 plus year old vines. Vinification in barrels 25% new. Aged for 8 years on the lees.

Champagne Henriot “Millésime 1988 made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 6 Grand Crus: Maily Champagne, Verzy, Verzenay on Montagne de Reims, Mesnil-su-Oger, Avize, Chouilly on Côte des Blancs. The wine has hints of raspberries and strawberries with a touch of hazelnuts and brioche and a long finish.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2003 DOC made from 100% Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini  very complex and full with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, melon, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe. The wine was not showing any sings of age.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2014 DOC made from 100% Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. With very nice fruit aromas and flavors, a note of strawberry and for a rose’, a great finish and aftertaste. There was some wine left in the bottle and I had it 3 days later.  The wine was still in perfect condition.

Prephylloxera Etna Rosso 2006 DOC Township of Randazzo from the Don Peppino Vineyard. Made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Right in front and to the right of the cellar in the Calderara Sottana vineyard are two parcels in the midst of the larger vineyards that have survived phylloxera. They are over 130 years old and stand on their own rootstock. Exposure is northern and the soil is black volcanic pumice with some ash. There is spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux for 18 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stefania Pepe Wines: Natural Wines at their Best

I first met Stefania Pepe many years ago at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona at the wine stand of her father Emidio Pepe. At the time I was the wine director and sommelier for i-Trulli restaurant in NYC.  The owner of I-Trulli and I liked the Pepe wines and we carried them in the restaurant.  Over the years, I would occasionally see Stefania in NYC. When I saw her 3 years ago at Vinitaly, Stefania had her own wine stand with the wines she produced. I was very impressed with her wines.

Last month Michele and I were invited on a press trip to Abruzzo.  We did not visit Stefania’s winery but I was delighted to see her at the Grand Tasting on the last day.

Stefania greeted us like old friends, and reminded us that we know each other for over 20 years.

Michele, Stefania and me

Last week Stefania was in NYC for the Wines of Abruzzo tasting.  I tasted her wines again and they were just as good as they were in Abruzzo.

The Wines of Stefania Pepe

L’Azienda Agricola Biologica Stefania Pepe is located in the commune of Torano Nuovo, Abruzzo.  There are 8 hectares of which 5.5 are covered with vines. The white grapes are crushed and pressed by feet and the red grapes are crushed and pressed by hand. The transfer of the wine is all done by gravity.

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC Biologica “Cuore di Vino” 2006 made from Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina. The vineyard is in Torano Nuovo at 240 meters, the exposure is west and the soil is clay calcareous. The training system is pergola abruzzese. The grapes are hand picked, crushed and pressed by feet and put into small concrete vats for 8 to 13 days without adding any yeast or sulphites. The wine remains in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for 5 years.  The wine is unfiltered and placed in bottles until it is ready to be released. This is an intense wine with hints of grapefruit, yellow apple, floral notes and a touch of honey.

Stefania said she follows the phases of the moon in her wine making. Her method changes according to the seasons.  For example the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation on its own during the hot weather and during the cold weather she decants the wine.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Biodiamico “Pepe Bianco” 2013 made from Trebbiano vines which are more then 30 years old. The exposure is south/east and the vineyards are at 240 meters and the training system is spalliera. The grapes are crushed by feet and fermentation takes place in cement vats for 10/18 days. The wine is decanted two times into another botte of cement and remains here until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of apple, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Stefania said using cement botti was a Pepe tradition going back four generations. Many producers in Abruzzo said they were now going back to using cement tanks for their wines.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2007. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC Controguerra 2009 made from 70% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Organic cultivated grapes selected and destemmed by hand. The wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 5 to 6 days without the addition of yeast or sulfites. There is one delastage and 2 pump overs of the juice a day. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, prunes, toasted nuts and a touch of black pepper.

Montepulciano D,Abruzzo” Colline Teramane” DOCG “Pepe Nero” Biodinamico 2006 made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast, the vines are at 240 meters and the vineyards are 15km from the sea. The training system is pergola abuzzese. The grapes are biodynamically grown, selected and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in botti (large wooden barrels) only with the skins without any additives including sulfites. The wine remains in the bottle for six months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberry, prune, cherry and a touch of almond and black pepper. I was very impressed by this wine.

This is how Stefania Pepe sums up her winemaking:  “I’m the woman in love with natural wines, I create wine only with biodynamic and organic certified grapes without using any chemicals or additives! I love to communicate and to give benefit…joy…healthier life to my customers.”

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Return to the Cataldi Madonna Winery

 

Michele and I first visited the Cataldi Madonna Winery in Abruzzo about 15 years ago. I recall that it was the first time I had tasted wine made from the Pecorino grape. There was some confusion and a lot of discussion over how the Cerasuolo D’ Abruzzo, a Rosato that looked like a red wine, was produced. We looked forward to our return visit and seeing Luigi Cataldi Madonna again.

Luigi Cataldi Mondanna

Luigi Cataldi Madonna

The winery, which is about 65 acres, is located in the town of Ofena. There are 30.5 hectares of vines planted exclusively with local and traditional vines like Montepulcino, Pecprino and Trebbiano at 320 to 440 meters. The plain of Ofena is at the foothills of the only Appenine glacier on Calderone in the Gran Sasso Mountain range. This makes for a great difference between night and day temperatures. The area has been called the oven of Abruzzo.

Our host then and now was the owner of the winery Luigi Cataldi Madonna. This time his daughter Giulia assisted him. Giulia said the picture on the labels is of the statue of the Warrior of Capestrano, a symbol of ancient Abruzzo.

The Wines

Trebbiano d”Abruzzo made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from vineyards located in Mandrella and Frontone, Ofena. Mandrella is at 1,300 feet. The vines were planted in 2003 and the training system is espalier. Frontone is at 1,215 ft, the vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is pergola. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of lemon, apple, pear and almond. They called this their every day wine.

Pecorino “Giulia” Terre Aquilane IGT 100% Pecorino from vineyards in Cona, Fontone and Macerone at 380 meters. The vines were planted in 2001 and the training system is spallier. Vinifiction takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. At the end of fermentation the juice is in contact with lees and is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months. The wine has hints of grapefruit, lime and a touch of fresh herbs.

Luigi was one of the first to “rediscover“ the Pecorino grape and began replanting in 1990 and produced the first vintage in 1996. Pecorino means little sheep in Italian because the sheep liked to eat these grapes off the vine.

Pecorino “Super Giulia” 100% Pecorino. The difference between the two is Super Giulia is made from the best selection of the grapes. This is a more flavorful version than the regular Giulia with a note of passion fruit.Giulia

Both wines are named for Luigi Cataldi Madonna’s daughter, Giulia.

 Cerasuolo d’ Abuzzo Rosato made from 100% Monepulciano D’Abruzzo from vines planted in 1970 and the vineyard is at 1,250ft. The training system is pergola. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature and is aged for 3 months in stainless steel. The wine has a bright rose color. This is a fruity wine with hints cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo “Pie delle Vigna” Rosato this is the wine that caused all the confusion because it is a Rose but looks like a red wine. We did not get to taste this wine on this visit because it was all sold out. I saw it in a store on one of our stops. This wine is made by white wine vinification 85%. The problem is that the juice from the Montepulciano grape is pink. The other 15% from red vinification, the juice is in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, so the wine looks like a red wine!

They also now make another Rosato from Montepulciano grapes called “Cataldino” which is an IGT wine and is a very fruity easy drinking wine.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Malandrino” made from 100% Montepulciano d”Abruzzo the vineyards are at 1,375 ft and the vines were planted 1970-2004. The soil is clay and limestone with medium texture and rich in skeleton. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in stainless tanks and concrete vats for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberry and plum with a touch of violets.

We enjoyed visiting the winery once again and meeting the third generation of wine producers at Cataldi Madonna.

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Touring Abruzzo

After a short stay in Rome, Michele and I were headed to Abruzzo for a press trip to explore the food and wine of this beautiful region.

We arrived at the hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi in San Vito Chietino after a 3-hour bus ride from Rome. The coastline here is called the Costa dei Trabocchi.

Trabocco

Trabocchi are dwellings used by fishermen so they could fish in bad weather.  Made of wood, they stand in the water on long wooden legs with long poles and nets reaching out into the water.

Some of them have been turned into restaurants.

On our first night, dinner at the hotel included a very informative presentation on Abruzzo given by Davide Acerra, president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo.

Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, it is considered part of the South.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The vines are grown along vertical posts and wires to a height of about 6 feet. The vines are planted 2 meters apart in parallel rows 2 meters apart. The leaves grow over the top to form a canopy (pergola) to protect the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. The Tendone has always been the way to grow table grapes in the area and it is easier to pick the grapes without having to bend down.

The Grapes and the Wines

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

This red grape has a medium compact cluster and a conical – pyramidal shape, often winged, with an elongated grape. It ripens late which gives the wine its ruby rich color, with hints of violets, cherries, berries and liquorice.

Both and Cerasoolo but notice the difference in color

Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo is a ‘Rose” made from the Montepulciano grape. This is a rose made from the free run juice and or juice with very little skin contact and it is bright red in color. If the producer adds 15% or more of the juice that has had skin contact for a number of hours, it almost has the color of a red wine.

Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo. The vines have large leaves and long bunches. The grapes never get darker than a deep straw color because of the long leaves and the Tendone training system. Trebbiano Tuscano is also used in combination with Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but the best wines come from those made from 100% Trebbiano d”Abruzzo

Of the local varieties Pecorino, a white grape is the most popular. Pecorino an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

Sparkling wines, both Metodo Classico and Charmat, are produced from the different varieties.

Almost 80% of the wine made in Abruzzo is produced by co-ops.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

It was a three day tour and in that time we visited a number of producers, a few hill towns,  made the local specialty pasta alla chitarra, had dinner in a Trabocco

and ended with the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo at the Villa Estea Torino Di Sangero where there were over 50 producers presenting their wines.

The experience was made more enjoyable because of the other members of our group who were so congenial.

I will write more about our experiences in a future report.

 

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