Category Archives: Uncategorized

At Home with Michele and Charles

Just like everyone else, Michele and I are trying to make the best of being confined to home, which in our case is a small apartment.  For us that means we are doing a lot of reading, tv watching, household projects and of course, eating and drinking.  Luckily, we had done a big shopping trip when we returned home from Italy and stocked up on some of our favorite Italian ingredients.  I keep a supply of wines on hand, so whatever Michele decides to cook, or is able to cook with what she finds in the pantry or refrigerator, I can match a wine to it.  With a good supply of pasta on hand, there is always something good to look forward to.

 

One day it was one of Michele’s childhood favorites.  Broken spaghetti with peas, eggs and cheese.  She uses frozen peas for this dish, and they are perfectly delicious, sweet and fresh tasting.

 

 

Beneventano Falaghina ‘”Resilienza “2018 Donna Chiara made from 100% Falanghina  The soil is chalky and the training system is guyot. Harvest is the first two weeks of October. There is a soft  pressing of the grapes and then they are cooled  50 degrees F for 4 to 5 hours. This is followed a with static decantations.  Fermentation is at 57 to 60 degrees F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has floral notes with hints of citrus fruit, pear and apricot with good acidity and a long finish. I am always impressed by the Falaghina from Donna Chiara.

 

 

Another day, she tried a recipe from one of Marcella Hazan’s books.  It was spaghetti with bacon and zucchini.  It doesn’t look that interesting in the photos, but we liked it.

 

 

I was craving tomato sauce, so Michele made a simple one with olive oil, garlic, canned Italian tomatoes, and some basil that she had in the freezer.  It will have to do until we can get some fresh basil or plant some when the weather is better.

 

The only time we have pasta leftover is when Michele makes a double batch so that she can fry it the next day.  She mixes the cold pasta — any kind will do — with eggs and grated cheese and fries it in a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet until crispy and browned.  This was made with the remains of the spaghetti with zucchini and bacon.

 

 

 

Here we have spaghetti once again, with broccoli cooked until very soft with garlic olive oil and hot pepper.  Mashed with a little of the pasta water, it  makes  a kind  of  pesto  to  toss  with  the  pasta.

Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Pietro”  Sandro De Bruno made from 100% Garganega from the hills around Roncà, at 330 meters. The soil is volcanic, there are 4,000 vines per hectare, the training system is Pergoletta Veronese and the exposure is south. Fermentation is in big oak barrels of 30hl. This is a well-structured, complex wine with hints of tropical fruit,  citrus fruit white pepper and a floral note with a very pleasing after taste and a long finish. A great Soave.

 

This spaghetti was tossed with fresh scallops, garlic, parsley and hot pepper.  She finished it with some toasted breadcrumbs.

Barbera d’Alba” Bricco di Merli” 2001 Cogno  made from 100% Barbara from a 1.8 hectare vineyard at 300 meters, There are 4,500 plants per hectare and the training system is vertical trellised with guyot pruning. Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over. The wine is aged for six months in large Slavonian casks and  6 months in bottle before release. This is the fourth bottle of this wine I have had and it is showing very well for a wine 19 years old. Barbara can age. It has hints of dried prunes and cherries with a hint of spice.

 

Fresh fettuccine is the preferred pasta for a slow simmered Ragu Bolognese, made with pork, beef and a variety of vegetables.  But  we  had  it  with  dried penne rigati.

Montefalco Rosso 2016 Bocale made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangiovese, 10 % Merlot and 5% Colorino.  Harvest is by hand the last days of September and the first days of October.  Vinification is with natural enzymes and there is no stabilization or filtration. The wine is aged in barrels and barriques for 12 months. The  wine has hints of violets and cherry with spicy notes

One day, a homemade pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella was a nice break from pasta.  It was even good reheated the next day.

 

A bunch of fresh asparagus was the inspiration for this creamy risotto.

 

Michele fried the remainder into cakes the next day, similar to the fried spaghetti I mentioned previously.

With so much bad news, good meals are a joy and a comfort.  We hope you are eating and drinking well too.

 

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Filed under Barbara, Barbera, Bocale, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Michele and Charles, Montefalco Rosso, Uncategorized

A Wino Confronts a Virus by Tom Maresca

A Wino Confronts a Virus

This is the second article that I am sharing written by other wine writers to express their thoughts during this unusual time.  The author last week was Daniele Cernilli and now I present Tom Maresca, from Greenwich Village, NYC 

March 26, 2020  Tom’s Wine Line.   www.ubriaco.wordpress.com

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

A Wino Confronts a Virus

March 26, 2020

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

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Filed under Tom & Diane, Uncategorized

Message in a Bottle by Daniele Cernilli

 | 
Message in a Bottle.  by Daniele Cernilli 03/23/20
Vigneti Pio Cesare Langhe

During these days of forced seclusion, I’m sure many of us we have all opened a bottle from our personal cellar. Each bottle for me has brought back special memories.

I have now been at home for a dozen or so days now and like all of you have gone out the minimum as possible. I have also, like all of you, been looking at the collection of wines in my cellar. They are not as many as you may think, however, because I tend to drink my wine rather than save it for long.

Many bottles are from producers I have known well for years, who make their wine in places I have often visited, many of which are very beautiful. Each bottle, each wine brings back a memory of a vineyard, of the face of an old friend, as if these were messages in a bottle that in a way comfort me and in a way make we want to revisit these people and places more than ever before.

The bottles make me remember discussions and tastings, many of which took place a long time ago. I remember the dreams of the then-young Silvio Jermann and Josko Gravner, in 1981, and my first visit to Brolio, in 1993, with Carlo Ferrini and Francesco Ricasoli, who had just taken charge of his family’s estate. Then there were the incredible landscapes, like the vineyards in the Langhe, those of the Sorrento Peninsula and Etna. And I remember the flavors of wines and the sound of voices as well as the stories told by a young Riccardo Cotarella, who with his salesman in Rome would try to “hawk” his Est to wine shops in the capital. He was totally unknown back then and at times would receive gruff responses.

In the end I open a bottle, which yesterday was a Barolo Ornato 2007 Pio Cesare, a magnificent wine that is perfect to drink right now. I had misplaced it behind some other bottles and this was actually a good thing because otherwise I would have opened it earlier and that would have been a shame.

I hope these memories will once again and as soon as possible be just those of concrete life experiences and encounters. And it would be nice if this took place in a somewhat different yet always wonderful world, like the one of wine and those who make it.

A media hug to all of you.  Daniele Cernilli. aka Doctor Wine, Rome, Italy

— The above was written by Daniele Cernilli from Rome.  From time to time, I will share with you messages I receive from other wine journalists about how are coping with the recent events.  — Charles


 

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Filed under Daniele Cernilli, Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine, Uncategorized

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

A Wine Tasting to Remember

 

Just before I was to leave for Italy I was invited by Riccardo Gabrielli of PR comunicare il vino to Il Gattopardo restaurant. Riccardo represents many of the best wineries in Italy and I am always happy to taste the wines and speak with Riccardo. At the time I did not realize that this was going to be my last wine tasting for some time given the present situation. I was very happy the wines were showing so well.

Riccardo

When I arrived there was only one other person at the table, Alfredo Miccoli, chef/owner of Al Mar restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. I know Alfredo and have been to his restaurant and was looking forward to discussing the wines with him.

THE WINES

Le Grane” Colli (Le Marche) DOC 2018 made from 100% Ribona (aka Maceratino) Boccadigabbia. Ribona is a rare gape varietal grown only in the province of Macerata. The 23 hectares of vineyards stand on hills in two separate zones in Civitanova and Macerata. The soil is sandy-clayey and the exposure is northeast and the training system is guyot. The grape clusters are soft crushed and fermentation lasts for about 12 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, whole slightly overripe berries are added to the wine. This second fermentation lasts for 10 days and allows an added extraction of compounds and aromatics from the skins. This is a well-structured wine with fragrances of ripe citrus fruit and a hint of melon.

La Lupinella Trebbiano Toscana IGT 2018 made from 100% Trebbiano. The vineyard is in Sant’Ansano (Vinci). The grapes are carefully selected by hand and a small part, about 2%, is picked from the bunches, set aside and later added during fermentation which takes place in terracotta jars, to intensify the aromatic character of the wine. The wine remains on the lees for a minimum of 6 months without undergoing malolactic fermentation and is aged at least 3 months in the bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity well-balanced wine with hints of peach, white flowers and a touch of almonds.

Pinot Grigio “Ramato” Friuli Colli Orientali 20i8 Valentino Butussi made from 100% Pinot Grigio planted in 1984, 1978 and 2004 on hill slopes of Eocene-era stratified marl and sandstone. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the training system in guyot. Selected hand picked grapes harvested in September when the grapes have reached optimal ripeness. The grapes are destemmed and gently pressed and the resulting must is chilled to 10-12 degrees C. The free-run must is separated from the second-quality juice and sent to be fermented. The wine remains for 6 months in steel casks and 2 to 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit, with a touch of acacia blossoms.

Rosato di Nero d’Avola ”Luigia” IG 2018 IGT, Sicily Barone Sergio made from 100% Nero d’Avola. This is a Nero d’Avola vinified like a white wine. The wine is aged in steel for 6 to 7 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. It is an easy to drink fruity wine with hints of strawberry, cherry and black currants.

Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba DOCG “Garabei” 2017  Giovanni Abrigo made from 100% Dolcetto planted in 1968. The estate is situated on a hill in Diano d’Alba at a high altitude. They own 11 hectares of vineyards. The soil is sandy with a lot of gravel. The juice is fermented naturally on the skins for 8 days in stainless steel tanks. After racking the wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and spends 4 more months in bottle before release. The wines are not filtered or fined. Sustainable farming methods are used. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherries and raspberries with a hint of spice and a touch of lavender. I was able to drink this wine with dinner one night and was very impressed it.

Costa Toscana IGT 2014  “Vallino”  La Regola made from Cabernet Sauvignon with a variable percentage of Sangiovese. The vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. The soil is red Mediterranean with many stones. Harvest is by hand with a carful selection. Manual selection of grapes in the winery, medium maceration, fermentation is in natural concrete vats at a controlled temperature. After malolactic fermentation the wine ages for 12 months in French barriques of second and third passage. The wine remains in bottle for at least 12 months before release. This is a concentrated  wine with  hints of red and black berries, a touch of spice and a note of  vanilla.

Pietro Beconcini “IXE IGT Toscana Tempranillo 2016  The name is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines. In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats and maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name. This origin of this grape variety is not known for certain.

Tintilia Del Molise Rosso DOP Cantine Catabbo made from 100% Tintilia from San Martino in Pensilis. The vineyard is at 300 meters and the soil in medium clay. The vineyard was planted in 1998. The cultivation is low cordon outcrop and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand the first week of October. Fermentation lasts for 15 to 20 days. The wine remains in steel for 12 months and then in bottle until release. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry, with a note of dried flowers and a touch of licorice and spice.

Montefalco Rosso 2016 Bocale made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 10% Merlot and 5% Colorino. Harvest takes place by hand from the last ten days of September to early October. Vinification is exclusively with natural enzymes. The wine does not undergo any kind of stabilization or filtration. Presence of sediment should be considered a guarantee of authenticity. The wine is aged in barrels and barriques for about 12 months and aged in bottle for at least 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine with hints of cherry, violets and floral scents and a touch of spice.

Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2016 Pardi made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, Merlot and Cabernet 15%. Harvest takes place the first of October. Fermentation takes place with the skins for 10 days. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months and in steel for 6 months. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of red berries, plum, clove and a hint of tobacco.

Trefiano Carmignano 2013 Capezzano made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 10% Canaiolo. The exposure is south/west and the vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. The age of the vines is 22 years. The soil is clay schist and limestone. Vinification is in steel tanks. There is 7 days of alcoholic fermentation followed by another maceration with the skins, before racking at a controlled temperature. Malolactic fermentation is in French tonneaux. The wine is aged in tonneaux for 24 months and in bottle for about one year before release. This is a wine with hints of red fruit, violets, spicy notes and what I call the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines.

 

 

 

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Visiting the Argillae Winery near Orvieto

When we are in Rome we often spend a day in Orvieto, a beautiful town in Umbria, just a short ride away by train.  This year we were traveling with a friend who had never been there and we decided to go, have lunch, and visit the Argillae winery.

I contacted Giulia di Cosimo, manager of the winery, who Michele and I met on a Hello Grappa press trip. Giulia’s mother is a member of the Bonollo family, which owns distilleries in different parts of Italy.

We had lunch at Osteria dell’Orso in Orvieto and Giulia met us after lunch and drove us to the winery.

Giulia

Giulia told us about the Argillae estate. Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo, Giulia’s grandfather, founder of Bonollo, Spa., the biggest Italian distillery.  She said the estate covers an area of about 220 hectares between the hills of Allerone and Ficulle, northwest of the town of Orvieto. The soil is mostly clay, limestone and rocks but what makes it unique she said is that the area was once covered with water and it contains a lot of fossils such as seashells from the Pilocene period. These fossils enrich the soil with mineral components which pass into the wine.

The terroir is mostly clay-calcareous and Giulia said this type of soil stays cooler than other soils and works well in hot regions like Umbria. The clayey part retains the water and this helps the grapes during the dry season, while the calcareous part drains well, avoiding diseases caused by stagnation and humidity. Argillae in Latin means clay.

They do everything they can to protect the environment; to her it is not a philosophy but a way of life.

The Wines

Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC “Panata”  2018 made from 50% Grechetto, 20% Procanico and 30% Chardonnay. There are 4,000 wines per hectare for the Grechetto and Procanico, and for the Chardonnay 3,333 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest is by hand and takes place in September. The grape undergoes a brief cold maceration process to obtain the ideal extraction of the aromas and is then pressed very lightly. The musts ferment separately in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. A small portion of the Grechetto must is fermented and refined in oak barriques and everything is then blended together. The wine remains on the lees until it is bottled in March/April. This is a well-structured, elegant wine with hints of yellow flowers, grapefruit, nice minerality and good acidity.

Giulia said the wine is named for a medieval pitcher used for pouring wine and water traditionally characterized by a prominent beak and decorated with animal, floral or mythological motifs.

Bianco Umbria 2017 IGT “Primo d’Anfora” made from Grechetto di Orvietto Drupeggio (aka Canaiolo Bianco) and Malvasia (3% of the Malvasia is late harvest). The 3 varieties are in 3 separate amphora with skin contact.

After two weeks the wines go into stainless steel tanks where they are blended. Then the blended wine goes back into the amphora for another 8 months before it is bottled. Giulia said this is her project because she wanted to produce wine close to the way the ancient Etruscans did. This is a full-bodied wine with citrus aromas and flavors, nice minerality, good acidity, with a pleasing aftertaste and a long finish.

Umbria IGT Bianco Grechetto 2018 made from 100% Grechetto The training system is guyot, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September. After a careful selection in the vineyards, cold maceration takes place. There is a brief pressing and the juice is racked and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks before the wine is bottled in February/March. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, a touch of jasmine, good acidity and what Giulia referred to as the typical almond finish. This was the white wine that my two friends really enjoyed.

Orvieto Superiore DOC 2018 made from Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia,Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The training system is guyot. There are 4,000 vines per hectare for the Grechetto and Procanico and 3,333 for the others. Harvest takes place in September. Each variety is vinified separately. The grapes are delicately pressed and the resulting juice is racked and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees until it is bottled in February/March. Giulia said she wished to pay homage to the regional tradition of Umbria by creating a fresh dry white wine with intense aromas of flowers, citrus and tropical fruit. The wine has nice mineral notes, good acidity and a refreshing finish.

Umbria Rosso IGT “Sinuoso” 2017 means smooth or round. Made from 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Montepulicano. The soil is clay-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There are 3,333 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place in October. After destemming and crushing there are 15 days maceration with regular must pump-over on the skins. Both the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation are in stainless steel. The wine is subsequently fined for several months and is periodically racked with the addition of oxygen. The wine remains in bottle for 3/4 months before release. This is a fruity red wine with hints of cherry, black currant and plum with a long finish.

Unbria Rosso IGT “Vasellarus 2017” made from 85% Montepulciano, and 15 Cabernet Sauvignon. The training method is guyot and there are 3,333 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand in October. The grapes are crushed and destemmed and there is a 25/30-day maceration period with frequent pumpovers on the skins, accompanied by several rack and return procedures. Alcoholic fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques. The wine is aged in French barriques with racking on a regular basis, depending on the need. The wine remains in the bottle for another 8/12 months before release. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, spice, black pepper and vanilla notes.

Giulia said the Vascellari were medieval pottery and ceramic producers in Orvieto. The pieces mainly featured floral, animal and mythological motifs. As a tribute to the craftsman, the label of the bottle takes inspiration from one of the works and displays the shape of a dragon. In the lower section there is depicted an ancient contract related to a selling of a group of ceramics.

 

 

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Rome in the Time of the Coronavirus

Michele and I returned from Rome a few days ago just before things began to shut down. Our plan had been to stay for another week but we reluctantly decided to go home as the coronavirus crisis began to grow.

This was far from our first trip to Italy. That took place in 1970 when we honeymooned there, going to Rome, Naples, Florence, Sicily and Venice. Since then, we return at least once a year, often as many as 3 or 4 times. Not only do we love Italy, it’s culture and cuisine but also the people. We have made many friends there.

We had been in Naples and Rome one winter some years ago and we realized that the warm weather places most New Yorkers head to in winter didn’t appeal to us at all. We preferred to be in Naples and Rome where we would find great food and wine, as well as relatively mild temperatures (compared to NYC). There was plenty to do – art shows, concerts, opera, museums, as well as great restaurants to try. So now we winter in Naples and Rome.

Just before we left for Italy, I read a book called “Rome: A History in Seven Sackings” by Matthew Kneale. It details the attacks that Rome has suffered at the hands of invaders from the Gauls to the Nazis. Each invasion took a terrible toll yet Rome survived and sometimes emerged all the better.

The current invader is the Novel Coronavirus and it is causing havoc in Rome, throughout Italy. We saw it and were saddened by it. But we firmly believe that this too shall pass. Rome will survive this, its eighth sacking. It is the Eternal City and we can’t wait to return.

Now the virus is in the US.  Let’s all follow the example of the Italians and do everything we can to stop it.  Michele and I plan to stay at home as much as we can and do what we usually do, enjoy Italian wine and food.

 

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