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Visiting CasaSetaro Winery on Mt. Vesuvio


Two years ago when Michele and I were in Rome  I was contacted by Massimo Setaro owner/wine maker of the CasaSetaro winery in Campania. We made an appointment to meet at a restaurant in Rome for lunch to taste his wines. He invited us to visit him at the winery the next time we were in Naples.

This yeart Massimo came and drove us to the winery

Lower vineyard: Tufa and higher vegetation

As Michele and I  stood in the vineyard Massimo said the winery is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Trecase. All the vineyards are located inside the Vesuvius National Park.

He spoke about the terroir and said it is volcanic and sandy with a layer of lava on the surface and volcanic stone. There is a mineral character present in the wines. This composition of the soil makes the vines immune to phylloxera so the vines are not grafted on to American root stock. Pointing to a vine he said if phylloxera  attacked this plant it would destroy it but would die in the soil before it reached another plant.

The higher vineyard with the Lapilli

The exposure of the vineyards are south/southeast, at 200 to 450 meters. At the lower part of the vineyards the soil in black and packed very tightly and Massimo called it tufa. He grows tall vegetation between the rows  to help feed the vines. Higher up on the volcano the soil has very small pebbles called lapilli which were deposited when the volcano erupted and the vegetation in much shorter.

If you walk to the highest point, you would be surrounded by the forests of the Vesuvius National Park.

Green organic manure is used and the vines are treated only with copper and sulfur. Selected yeast is used in all the wines and the winery uses only their own grapes.

There are 4,500 plants per hectare.

Massimo Satero

Massimo said he had bought a number of oak barriques but does not use them for wine anymore. Now they are used for planters.

He said he learned a lot from his father growing up in the winery where they live. He said he takes care of all the production steps from vineyard management to the final bottling and his wife, Mariarosaria, works at his side.

I was very impressed with the passion in his voice when he spoke about growing up in the winery, the Vesuvius National Park, his wines and that he and his family live at the winery.

The Winesimg_1504

Caprettone Spumante Method Classico 2014 100% Caprettone Production zone Alto Tirone, Vesuvius National Park. The age of the vineyards is 18 to 25 years. They are at 350 meters and the training system is espalier, guyot trained with a few buds per plant. Vinification: maceration at 4 degrees C in steel tanks, fermentation for 18 to 24 days, the second fermentation takes place after about six months. The wine remains on the lees for 30 months and remains in bottle for about 12 months before release.

Last year when I was a judge at Radici del Sud in Puglia, this wine was picked as #1 in the spumante category by the journalist panel of which I was a member.

Massino said the Caprettone grape is excellent for making spumante method classico because it has very good body and produces a round and elegant wine. I have to agree.img_1503

Falanghina Campania IGT “Campanelle” 100% Falanghina del Vesuvio. Production Area: various micro zones within the Vesuvius National Park. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vines are 18 years old. The training system is espalier with guyot pruning.  The wine has nice citrus aromas and flavors with a touch of minerality. He said the Falangina produced here is very different from the one produced further inland.

Massimo feels that Falanghina does not have the same rich character as the Caprettone. We both agreed however with spaghetti con vongole verace, spaghetti with clams, we would drink the Falanghina. 

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco “Munazei” 100% Caprettone. Production zone Vesuvius National Park. The training system is Vesuvian pergola and guyot. Vinification: Maceration in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and fermentation lasts for about 20 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for about 6 months and then in bottle for two months before release. We tasted the 2016 and the 2007 which was not showing any sign of age.

In the last year the law has changed so Massimo can put the grape variety Caprettone on the label.

Michele and I first had wines made from the Caprettone grape a few years ago on the Amalfi Coast and have been drinking them ever since.

Munazei- this is what they called the cold storage rooms built into the mountain where food was kept to prevent spoilage.img_1502

 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Rosato “Munazei” 2016 100% Piedirosso. The vineyards are at 300 to 350 meters and the vines are 20 years old. Training system is espalier, guyot and Vesuvian pergola. There is a soft destemming and pressing followed by low temperature skin fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 4 degrees C for about 24 hours. The lees are removed and there is cleaning and controlled temperature fermentation at 10 to 12 degrees C for 18 to 24 days. The wine remains in steel tanks for 3 months and another 2 months in bottle before it is released. It has aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, strawberry and raspberry.img_1505

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Piedirosso DOC 2016 100% Piedirosso. Espalier, guyot training Vesuvian pergola. Vinification: Maturation in stainless steel tanks for 6 months and in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of dark fruit with touch of blackberries and violets. It is an easy drinking wine that goes very well with food.

Aglicano “Terramalta” IGT 100% Aglianico2016 from the comune di Trecase (NA), Bosco del Merlo and Tirone della Guardia. The vines are 15/25 years old and the training system is guyot and pergola vesuviana. Destemming and soft pressing of the grapes followed by temperature controlled fermentation at 15C and the lees are removed. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 3 months and in small oak barrels for 2 months and in bottle before release. This is a full bodied wine with flavors and aromas of red fruit, balsamic hints, a touch of  licorice and good minerality.


Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC Riserva “Don Vincenzo”  2013.  Made from 85% Piedirosso and 15% Aglianico. The production area is Tirone della Guardia. The vineyards are at 350 meters and are 30 years old. The training system is espalier, guyot trained. There is a natural selection of the hand picked grapes. Fermentation takes place with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. The wine is then aged for 24 months in French oak tonneau and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a deeply rich wine with hints of cherries and raspberries with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Massimo said this wine is named after his father.

We went with Massimo and his wife to La Notizia, one of the “classic” pizzerias on the Vomero. Massimo is a good friend of the owner Enzo Coccia who planned a menu foe us, but that is another blog.



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BELLA NAPOLI February 2018


Parade for MADONNA DELL’ARCO in Spaccanapoli

Man playing a mandoline

Our friend and Guide in Spaccanapoli, Marina Alaimo

This pastry shop claims to make the original style of sfogliatella pastry.


The best tomatoes, piennolo from Vesuvius

Giant lemons in the market near Via Toledo

Gambrinus sfogliatella

Pasticceria Scaturchio — Vesuvius in pastry

Musica senza parola nella Galleria

A store in Spaccanapoli that specializes in La Pastiera

The turntable at the nunnery where poor families once left their babies.

A little bit of Egypt on Via Nilo

In the San Martino Museum

Piazza Municipio

Pasta and potatoes at Taverna Santa Chiara

Seafood casserole at Ciro a SantaBrigida

Grilled anchovies at Trattoria San Ferdinando

Paccheri with Seafood

Pizza at Le Notizie


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Domaine Bousquet: Argentinian Wine with a French Twist

There is a Mediterranean restaurant, Lallisse, not far from my apartment that I pass often but for some reason never went into. Recently I was invited to a dinner and tasting of the wines of Domaine Bousquet, a Argentina winery at Lallisse. I knew that Domaine Bousquet is certificated organic and I also knew from friends that Lallisse only serves organic wine and uses organic products; even the Mexican coffee beans are organic. The restaurant has many of  the Domaine Bousquet wines on their list.

Ann Bousquet the owner of the winery, was the speaker and began by telling us something about the winery.

Ann Bousquet

Ann’s father Jean Bousquet is a third generation French wine maker who vacationed in Argentina in 1990. He saw the Gualtallary Valley, a remote arid terrain high in the Tupungato district of the Uno Valley in the Mendoza region. He believed this would be an ideal location for organically grown grapes. Locals dismissed the area as to cool for growing grapes. Bousquet believed it was the perfect place for Old World high acidity and cool climate with New World sunny and fruit forward wines. He purchased land  there in 1997, in 1998 dug a well because it was a very dry area.  He grew grapes, built a modern winery and produced wine. In 2008 Ann joined the company and in 2009 she and her husband moved to Tupungato full time.  They assumed ownership of the 173 acre Domaine Bousquet in 2011.

Ann said the region has an exceptional terroir and ideal weather conditions to produce quality wines from organic grapes. Domaine Bousquet produces wines applying both French and Argentine know how to the wine making process.  The wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel, cement and French oak. They only have used barriques. Since the terroir is so exceptional she wanted to express it in her wines and not have too much oak.  She is committed to organic agriculture and improving the land’s biodiversity. She said that the healthier the vineyards the better the fruit and of course the wine.

Sparkling Rose NV Charmat method made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from their own vineyards in Tupungato, Alto Gualtallary by the foothills of the Andes at 4,000 ft. The soil is gravel and sand. Manual harvest is during the third week of February. Fermentation is with selected yeast at a maximum temperature of 13C/15C for 15 days. Secondary fermentation is in steel tanks. Residual Sugar is 12g/ and the alcohol is 12%. The wine is fruity with delicate bubbles, hints of red fruit and citrus notes.   $13

Ann said because of the high altitude of the vineyards at 4,000 feet,  the nights are fresh and cool which helps to preserve the fresh fruit flavor and acidity in the grapes.

Chardonnay Reserve 2016 made from 100% Chardonnay from their vineyards in the Tupungato (Uco Valley) at 4000 ft. one of the highest points in Mendoza. 30% of the wine has been aged in used French oak barrels for 10 months and 4 months in bottle before release. Alcohol is 13.5%. $18

Gaia Red Blend 2015 made from 50% Malbec, 45% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a manual harvest: for the Syrah the 2nd week of April, Malbec the 3rd week of April, and the Cabernet Sauvignon 4th week of April. There is a cold fermentation for 72 hours. Fermentation is with selected yeast at a maximum temperature of 27C for 12 days. Maceration is for 14 days and the wine is aged in used French barrels for 10 months. This is a fruity wine with aromas and flavors of black fruit with a hint if blueberries and a touch of spice Alcohol is 14%.  $20

Pinot Noir Reserve 2016  100% Pinot Noir. Manual harvest the first week of March. There is a cold fermentation at 8C for 72 hours with selected yeast between 20C and 25 C for 15 days and 10 days of additional maceration. Aged in French oak for 10 months. Alcohol is 14.5%. This is an elegant well-balanced red wine with hints of strawberry and cherry. It really tasted like a Pinot Noir. $18

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Malbec. Ann said by law a wine must contain at least 85% of the grape varietal that is on the label. $18There is a manual harvest during third and fourth week of April. Cold maceration is at 10C for 48 hours. Fermentation with selected yeasts at a temperature of 25C to 27 C for 10 days and 10 days of additional maceration. Aged in French oak for 10 months.$18

Gran Reserve Malbec 2015 Made from 85% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 % Merlot and 5% Syrah. There is a manual harvest during the third and fourth week April. Cold maceration lasts for 48 hours. Fermentation is with select yeasts at a temperature of 25C/27C for 10 days and 14 days of additional. The grapes are macerated, and malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged in used French oak for 10 months. The wine had aromas and flavors of red fruit with hints of strawberry and a touch of spice. Alcohol is 14%. $25


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Thinking of Bella Napoli


Sitting in a hotel near the Charles De Gaulle airpot looking at pictures of Naples. My flight to Naples was cancelled so I am looking at the snow when I should be in Bella Napoli. Hope we can get there tomorrow.  Update now I am at the Air France lounge, still looking at the snow but hope to be in Napoli today.

Naples is the most exciting city in Italy. Everywhere you look there is something to see!


Mt. Vesuvius


by Lello Esposito

Pulcinella by Lello Esposito

Group of students asked us to take their picture

Group of students asked us to take their picture.  They shouted “We love America”.


Castel dell’Ovo

The Carlo Opera House

The San Carlo Opera House.  We went for a tour and saw a mini concert.



Castello di San Martino from the hotel rooftop.

The Pia

The Royal Palace

Naples underground

Naples underground.  A fascinating tour.

at da Donato restaurant

Neapolitan songs at da Donato restaurant

The seal of approval

The seal of approval




Pizza anyone?

On the Via Caracciolo.  A little girl dressed as a nurse with a patient for Carnevale.


At the Archeological Museum


The store for soccer fans



On the street

The wash

Laundry day

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A Taste of Venice with Brindiamo!

Osteria da Fiore is one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in Venice. Recently Mara Martin, the chef and owner along with her husband Maurizio, visited New York City to offer cooking classes at The Michelangelo Hotel.

Mara and Ornella

Charles and I were delighted to attend a demonstration class and lunch tasting of Mara’s Venetian specialties hosted by Ornella Fado, the charming and dynamic host of the public tv program, Brindiamo! (We watch it every Sunday, and you should too if you are a fan of Italian food and wine.)

Mara’s son Damiano, who manages Mara’s Venetian cooking school and has a Venetian restaurant of his own, accompanied her and translated. The first dish that Mara prepared was a Black Squid Ink Risotto.

Mara explained the ingredients she was using, especially the enormous seppia, which is a member of the squid family.

Jeff Corwin and Mara

Jeff Corwin, a biologist who hosts the ABC-TV show, Ocean Treks, and an old friend of the Martin family, was on hand to describe the differences between seppia and squid which are part of the same family, while Mara made the risotto. Mara stressed the importance of using only the freshest seafood and told us that likes to buy the squid or seppia uncleaned so that she can harvest the ink and use the liver, which are typically discarded in this country by the fishmonger. Both add a lot of flavor and the characteristic color to the risotto.

Once the risotto was done, Mara explained how she makes fish in saor, an iconic Venetian dish, which is typically made with sardines topped with an onion and wine vinegar sauce. The sauce is poured over the fish and left to marinate for several days so that the flavors blend and mellow.

Finally, Mara demonstrated how she makes tiramisu, which is not like any we had ever tried before. Italians usually make tiramisu with raw eggs, but because Mara finds their flavor too heavy and many guests have allergies, she substitutes pureed pumpkin which gives a beautiful color and smooth texture to the creamy filling. And in another break with tradition, Mara uses amaretti cookies soaked in sweet Marsala to layer with the cream rather than lady fingers and coffee.

By this time we were very hungry, and we enjoyed the crostini di baccala mantecato that Mara had made for us with glasses of Prosecco. Baccala is dried or salted cod that is reconstituted by first soaking and then cooking in water. The cooked fish is whipped in an electric mixer with olive oil until it becomes light, fluffy and spreadable on toast.

While Mara cooked, Ornella and the Brindiamo! staffers fielded questions from the observers and filmed Mara’s and Jeff’s responses.

Finally, Ornella invited us to the elegantly set table in a private dining room.

We were served an assortment of dishes that Mara prepares at Osteria da Fiore including the black squid ink risotto, fish in saor,

fried soft shell crabs (called moeche) in a tempura like batter, fresh tuna meatballs with a delicate tomato sauce,

grilled shrimp,

and mozzarella in carozza, deep fried sandwiches stuffed with mozzarella. Finally, there was Mara’s unique tiramisu,

followed by pinza, a cornmeal and raisin cake and cookies.

The wines

We started with La Marca Prosecco

Then the importer/distributor, Tony Margiotta, of Gladiator Wine Distribution, described the wines he had provided. He said that the winery, Castellucci Miano, practices sustainable agriculture. No pesticides or dangerous chemicals are used and the grapes are hand picked. He called it a “natural wine.” He told us that Perricone is Sicily’s oldest existing wine grape going back 2,500 years.

Castellucci Miano, “Miano” DOC,  2016 100% Catarrato, Sicily  The vineyards are located on the slopes of the Madonie Mountains at 700 to 900 meters. The training system is alberello and sapling and the average age of the wines is 20 years. Sandy and clay soil with an alkaline reaction due to active limestone. Harvest takes place in October. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature of 16C. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks for 3 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. This is a wine with hints of ripe citrus fruit and red apple with good minerality and acidity.

Tony Margiotta of Gladiatore Wines

Tony said that catarrato means cataract, or waterfall in English because when you swirl the wine in your glass, the wine slowly falls back down to the bottom of the glass like a waterfall with naturally occurring bubbles. These bubbles are not carbonation but a natural characteristic of the Catarratto grape.

Castelluccio Miano “ Perric One”  DOC, 2015 Sicily, 100% Perricone The average age of the vines is 20 to 30 years and the training method is guyot and spur-pruning. Before fermentation, the grapes are dried, then the wine is made using the “ripasso technique”. Traditional red wine fermentation with pump over during the initial spontaneous fermentation stage. Complete malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 3 months in steel tanks, then 10 months in small oak barrels and another 6 months in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied red wine with aromas and flavors of dry fruit with a nice aftertaste and long finish


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Pizza and Wine at Sorbillo with Alessia Antinori


When we had the Fiorano dinner with Alessia Antinori (…alessia-antinori/) at my apartment, I mentioned that I had gone to Sorbillo on the Bowery. Alessia said she would like to go sometime and since I had already made plans with a friend to return, I asked her  to join us.  I also asked her to bring her Alberico Bianco, a very special white wine.

Gegggè was again making the Pizza and we started as we always do with a Margarita.…ry-nyc-for-pizza/

Geggè Cozzolino

Antica Margherita / Campania

San Marzano tomatoes, Terre Francescane organic EVOO, fresh mozzarella, basil.

Vecchia Roma /Lazio

Guanciale, pecorino gran cru, fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, Terre Francescane organic EVOO.

Scarole / Campania

Calzone pizza with escarole, olives, smoked mozzarella, organic EVOO

Margherita con Salame Piccante/ Campania

Buffalo mozzarella, spicy salami Sam Marzano tomatoes, organic EVOO.

For the last pizza Gegge made a  Marinara

San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, oregano, organic EVOO and he added basil and black olives.

All of the pizza is made with Caputo organic flour

We brought our own wine and there is a reasonable corkage fee.

Alberico Bianco 2013 100% Sémillon

Alessia Antinori with her Alberico Bianco

After a careful manual selection, the best grapes were destemmed and soft pressed. Fermentation in casks and the wine completed its six months of aging in puncheons. The wine was aged in bottle for a minimum of 24 months.  This is an exceptional balanced wine with complex aromas of subtle tropical fruit, hints of citrus fruit and a slight touch of vanilla with a very pleasing finish and a long aftertaste.

Barolo Riserva 1958 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural winemaking methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo.

Produttoti del Barbaresco 1990 Nebbiolo 1990 this is an elegant Barbaresco with hits of cherry, leather, tea and spice. It is drinking very nicely now but will last.

Victory 2002 1oo% Alicante Mt. Etna, Sicily. The winery does not make wine anymore. I believe the wine is named after Admiral Lord Nelson’s ship, the Victory. The Admiral was given a large estate near Etna and the title the Duke of Bronte. He may have brought the Alicante grape to Sicily.





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Tasting Exceptional Soave at Azienda Agricola Prà

I first visited the Prà winery on a press trip for Soave a few years ago and really enjoyed the wines. We all had a nice time tasting and drinking the wine, having lunch and speaking to Graziano Prà, the owner of the winery.

Recently, I was invited to the Veneto by Michele Montresor, the president and Giulio Liut, the director of VignaioliVeneti, a newly formed association of over fifty of the Veneto’s top small producers. I was told that one of the producers we would visit was Azienda Agricola Prà. I was very happy to accept the invitation.


The winery is located in Monteforte d’Albone in the heart of the Soave Classico area.

When we arrived we were greeted Graziano and Diego “Corr” Corradi.

We tasted two wines

Soave Classico DOC “OTTO” 2016 100% Garganega from Monteforte d’Alpone. The vineyards are 30 to 60 years old; the exposure is southeast, at 150 to 250 meters. The soil is organic and the training system is Pergola Veronese. Harvest is from the 15th of September to the 15th of October. The grapes are softly pressed before undergoing fermentation at 16 degrees /18 degrees C. The wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel vats. This is a medium bodied wine with hints of jasmine, peach, apricot and mineral notes.

Soave Classico DOC “STAFORTE” 2015. 100% Garganega. The wines are 30 to 40 years old, exposure is south, at 150 to 200 meters and the soil is volcanic. The training system is the Pergola Veronese. A selection of the best grapes from all the vineyards are used for this wine. Harvest is from the 20th of September to the 10Th of October. The wine is fermented and retained in stainless steel tanks with regular batonnage for 6 months. This is a fruity easy drinking wine with hints of apricot, peach and golden apple with notes of chamomile and white flowers.


Before tasting  the Montegrande Soave Classico and lunch we were led on a walking tour led by Diego up a very steep hill to the historic Montegrande vineyard which is in the heart of the Soave Classico production zone.

Pergola Veronese

Diego spoke about the vineyard and the way the vines are trained. He said the vineyard was 4 hectares and the  rich volcanic soil here is different from other areas of the Soave region.

The volcanic soil

The Garganega vines are grown on a Pergola (called a Tondone in the South). The vines grow on trellises and the leaves cover and protect the grapes from the sun. It can be a unilateral Pergola, or uni – or bi-lateral pergoletta Veronese (Pergola Veronese), the type used here. This Pergola does not close all the way in the middle allowing sunlight to come through.

Grapes drying on the vine

The guyot is used for the Trebbiano di Soave.

He said that when the grapes reach optimal maturity the grape stalks of the clusters are twisted to prevent lymphatic flow. The grapes then dry on the vine for about a month and the juice becomes more concentrated and richer because of this method.

Montegrande Wines

Soave Classico “MONTEGRANDE” 2016 Garganega 70% and Trebbiano di Soave 30%. The Garganega is Pergola Veronese trained and the Trebbiano di Soave is Guyot trained and harvested in mid September. The grapes are dried on the vines for one month. The harvest is in October. The grapes are destemmed and softly pressed. Fermentation is carried out at 18 degrees C in large 15 to 20 HL Allier oak casks. The wine then is left to mature in casks for 10 months.

Graziano said minerality is the distinctive characteristic of this cru. This is a complex, elegant wine with hints of mature exotic fruit and citrus fruit with notes of almonds and a touch of vanilla. It has a very pleasing aftertaste and a long finish.

He said this wine has a good aging potential which was an understatement, as we then had a tasting of the wine going back to 2001.

2011 Montegrande – starting to take on some color, like the 2016 but more developed, this wine was a pleasure to taste and drink.

2007 Very smooth with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste and showing no signs of age. Also a pleasure to drink.

2005 this was the only one showing some age with a golden apple color but still drinking very well.

2003 seemed younger that the 2005 but showing a little age.

2001 This was the wine of the tasting, in excellent condition with all of the aromas and flavors of the 2016 only much more developed. The wine was smooth and the aromas and flavors jumped out of the glass. On the palate the fruit tasted warm and welcoming.

All of the wines have the same profile and after tasting and drinking them I can say that Monte Grande is a very special Soave.

We also tasted: Valpolicella DOC “Morandina”, Valpolicella Ripasso and an Amarone della Valpolicella. They are all made from Corvina, Corvione, Rondinella and Oseleta grapes.

Even though this is an article on Soave I really enjoyed these red wines with the steak that we had  for lunch.

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