The Wines of Marques de Murrieta at Bouley Test Kitchen, NYC

In 1992 I was able to purchase 6 bottles the 1942 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Riserva. I served it at very special event and everyone agreed  it was a great wine. I should have purchased more of it.

Recently I was invited to a lunch at Bouley at Home in NYC with the wines of Marques de Murrieta.  It was a combination I could not pass up.

aka Vincent D.

The speaker was the charming and informative V.Dalmau Cebráin-Sagarrigaa Presidente of Marques de Murrieta Winery and Count of Creixewll.

Marques de Murrieta goes back to 1854 when Luciano Murrieta produced the first Rioja wine and was granted the title of Marquis by King Amando of Savoy for his work in Rioja. Luciano established the concept of “cheateau” in the Ygay Estate where he built the Ygay Castle.

In 1983 Vincent Cebrián, tenth Count of Creixewll, took over the winery. After his death his eldest son Vincent D. Cebrián, current Count of Creixell, with his sister took over the management of the winery. There are 300 hectares of vineyards on the property.

Vincent D explained that they also own the Pazo de Barrantes winery, a property which his been in the family since 1511. Today the winery is designed specially for growing the Albarino grape on a 12 hectare plot. The winery is in the heart of the Saines valley in the province of Galicia.

As we entered the restaurant, we were served the La Comtesse 2015 Pazo Barrantes Rias Baixas D.O. Galicia 100% Albariño from the Cacheiro single vineyard, within the 12 hectare estate 0f Pazo de Barrantes. The old vine grapes grapes are destemmed and gently pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place in a 3,000 liter French Allier oak vat for 60 days. The wine is left on the lees for 6 months. The wine remains in the same wooden vats for 12 more months and then in concrete tanks for another 8 months. Vincent D. said this is a contemporary white wine that shows the versatility of the Albariño grape to reach new heights of freshness, complexity and aromatic richness when treated with the careful use of oak barrels.

Pazo Barrantes Rias Baixas, 2017 D. O. Galicia made from 100% Albarino grapes grown on the Pazo de Barrantes Estate surrounding the winery in the Salnes Valley. The grapes are hand harvested on September 7th to 19th 2017. The bunches are destemmed and gently pressed using a pneumatic press. Juice settling occurs before alcoholic fermentation. The juice is fermented at 10C for 30 days in stainless steel tanks without the grape skins. The wine is then left in contact with the lees for two months. The wine was bottled in March of 218. The wine has an aromatic complexity with intense floral, fruity and balsamic aromas.  I was very impressed with this wine.

Green Apple Cloud, Golden Osetra Caviar

Vincent D. said he ages the wines in concrete vats part of the time because it adds elegance and rounds out the tannins.

Capellania Reserva 2014 made from 100% Viura from a single vineyard planted in 1945 at 485 meters, the highest point on the Ygar Estate on their 300 hectare estate in Rioja Alta. Manual harvest takes place from September 30th to October 2nd. The grapes are crushed and after a short skin contact they are gently pressed in a vertical press. Vincent D said this is a slow and gentle process that favors the extraction of all the aromatic potential from our low-yielding Viula grapes. The juice is then settled and fermented in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank for 24 hours. The wine spends 15 months in French barriques for 15 months and one year in concrete tanks. It spends one year in bottle before release in June 2018. This is a well structured and complex wine with hints of white stone fruit and vanilla.  This is a white wine that can age. It was even better with  the food.

Wellfleet Sea Scallops wit Ocean Herbal Broth

Marqués de Murrieta Riserva 2015 made from 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuelo and 2% Garnache. Grapes come from the Ygay Estate which is 300 hectares of vineyards surrounding the winery in the south most point of Rioja Alta between 320 and 485 meters. Harvest by hand between September 14 and October 16 2015. Grapes are destemmed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks for 8 days at a controlled temperature with skin contact. Pumping over and punching down takes place. Then the solid parts of the grapes were pressed in vertical presses with double screws.

Aged for two years in new and partly 3 to 5 year old American oak barriques and 7 months in concrete and 6 months in bottle before release. This is a well structured and concentrated wine with hints of blackberry, licorice, and vanilla.

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Japanese Rice.

Castillio Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2009 made from 81% Tempranillo and 19% Mazuelo. The Tempranillo was harvested on the 30th of September and the Mazuelo on October 7th. The grapes come from La Plana single vineyard planted in 1950 and located on a plateau at 485 meters the highest point of the Finca Ygay. The bunches are destemmed and gently crushed before being racked into stainless steel vats. Fermentation is for about 11 days and pumping over and punching down takes place. The wine is aged for 26 months in French and American barrels, and for one year in concrete tanks. It remains in the bottle for 3 years before release. This is a concentrated wine with hints of blackberries, blueberries and spice with vanilla notes. It is a wine that will age for a long time.

Prime Filet Mignon Glazed Shallots and Organic Spinach

Dalmau Reserva 2014 made from 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Graciano. This wine is a selection of the best grapes available from an old single vineyard called Canajas at 465 meters. The soil is mainly clay chalky with a stony topsoil. Production is limited to 1 kilogram per vine. Manually selected grapes that reach the winery as soon as possible. The Tempranillo was handpicked on October 8th and the Cabernet Sauvignon on October 14. The grapes are destemmed and each variety ferments separately for 11 days. The Tempranillo ferments in stainless steel and the Cabernet Sauvignon in small oak vats. Pumping over and delestage are carried out on a daily basis. The wine in aged for 21 months in French Allier barriques, and for one year in concrete. Vincent said “this is a limited production wine from an old single vineyard where there are very low yields. It reflects the most modern side of our winery.” I agree with him. This is a concentrated wine with hints of dark fruit, dark chocolate, vanilla and mineral notes. Vincent  D said  it  is  against  the  law  to  use  Cabernet  Sauvignon  in  the  wine  of the  region  but  they  make an  exception for  him with this  wine.

Selection of Mature Artisanal French Cheese.



Filed under Marques de Murrieta

Puglia comes to Kesté

A number of years ago Michele and I were on a press trip to Puglia and we visited Cantina Due Palme. Recently I received  and invitation for an event called  “Wines of Excellence Made in Puglia: Cantine Due Palma at Keste Wall Street.”

It is always a pleasure to go to Keste and I wanted to catch up on the wines of Due Palme.

Roberto Caporuscio, Pizzaiolo/Owner of Keste, was the host for the evening.

We started with  a focaccia typical of Puglia, made by Roberto. The flour is a mix of Super  Nuvola “0” flour from Caputo, semolina and potato.  The topping is tomatoes and olives.

There was Buratta, a cow’s milk cheese, which originated in Puglia that has an outer shell of mozzarella and inside a mix of shredded mozzarella and cream called stracciatella. It is made fresh everyday at Keste.

Olives from Puglia-Cerignola

Roberto with his former students

Two former students of Roberto, Penelope and Lucie, made the pizza. They have since opened a pizzeria in Quebec City called Nina Pizza Napolitaine.  Roberto said they were his best students and after I tasted the pizza I could not agree more, it was that good.

I asked Robert what flour he uses for his pizza.  He said he uses a mix of 50% Tipo 1 and 50% Super Nuvola Tipo 0 from Caputo.

The Pizza

Pizza with  a mix of homemade straciatella, and smoked and regular mozzarella infused with fresh mint and limoncello, and topped with fresh figs – fantastic.

Pizza with stracciatella cheese, broccoli rape and sausages

Pizza with ricotta and onions sauteed with mixed berries

Vegetarian pizza

Figs marinated in red wine

Cantina Due Palme is a Social Cooperative with its main headquarters located in Cellino San Marco, Puglia.  It was established in 1989 but its roots go back to 1943. In  the beginning there were only 15 members and today there are 1,000 and they have merged with 4 other large wineries with a total capacity 10,000 HL of wine.

Salice Salentino DOP Riserva “Selvarossa” made from Negroamaro and Malvasia Nero. The soil is baked red clay and the training system is alberello. The grapes are hand harvested and some of the grapes are dried in the cellars to concentrate the sugars and flavors and to enrich the structure. The wine is aged for 9 months in French oak barriques and then in bottle until it is ready to be released. The wine has hints of cherry jam, dates and vanilla with a note of toasty oak and a touch of spice.

Primitivo Di Manduria DOP “Sangatano” made from 100% Primitivo Di Manduria. The soil is red in color because of iron oxides with a rocky limestone substratum. The wine is aged for 6 months in American oak barriques followed by maturation in the bottle for a period of time. This is a wine with black fruit aromas and flavors with hints of vanilla and chocolate.

Rosso Salento IGP “1943 The Presidents Wine” made from Primitivo and Aglianico from vineyards planted in 1968. The grapes are hand harvested and some of the grapes are dried (appassimento) in the cellars which are kept humidity free to avoid spoilage. The wine is aged for 9 months in new barrels and for a period in bottle before release. This is an intense and complex wine with hints of coffee, ripe cherry, plum and spicy notes of vanilla. It is called The Presidents Wine because it produced from the old vineyards planted by Angelo Marci, founder and president of the company, in 1968 using the alberello vine training method.

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Filed under Cantine due Palme, Italian Red Wine, Kaste, Pizza, Pizza and Wine, Pizza Restaurants, Primitivo, Uncategorized

Restaurant Aranci 67 a Taste of Italy

Our friend Lucio invited us to lunch at Aranci 67, a restaurant in Wilton, CT, owned by his sister and her husband, the chef Antonio Perillo.

We knew that Lucio came from a family of great cooks, since his late father had been the chef and owner of the now closed Bella Italia in Danbury, and together with his mother Anna, Lucio had once prepared a meal for us featuring some of his dad’s specialties.

Paolo Perillo, who shares front of the house duties with his mother Julia, greeted us. He showed us to our beautiful Amalfi style ceramic-topped table and we felt as if we had arrived on Capri.

Our lunch began with a Montanara pizza made by first frying the dough, then topping it with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil and then baking it until the cheese melts. Frying gives the dough added flavor and an evenly browned and puffed crust.

Next came perfectly ripe, peeled figs wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma a perfect sweet and salty combination.

Then the chef sent us deep fried zucchini flowers filled with ricotta and prosciutto,

and small arancini, crisp fried rice balls filled with cheese and ham.

Tender Potato Gnocchi in a light tomato sauce came next.

Sautéed chicken with mildly spicy vinegar peppers was the main course, accompanied by crisp sautéed potatoes and green beans.

For dessert there were Cannoli and Torta Caprese, a typical almond chocolate cake.

A homemade strawberry digestive beverage was the final touch on an outstanding meal. Lucky are the residents of Wilton and the surrounding area to have such a good Italian restaurant nearby.

The wines

Vecchie Terre di Montefili is located in Panzano in Chianti, Tuscany.

The wines were a gift from the former owner of the winery who is close friends with Lucio. I had tasted the 2015 vintages of these wines with Nicola Marzavilla, owner of I-Trulli restaurant in NYC and now the owner of the winery.

Bruno di Rocca IGT Colli Toscana Centrale 20 made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese from vineyards planted in the early 1980’s. The soil is galestro and the training system is spurred cordon. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeast. Aging for a minimum of months 28 in tonneaux for the Sangiovese and for the Cabernet Sauvignon in barriques (350 liters).  Nicola said Cabernet Sauvignon needs to be aged in barriques. The wine spends a minimum of 12 months in bottle before release. $ ? It is difficult to make a of thi type  wine where the Cabernet Sauvignon does not dominate but this is a a soft elegant wine.

Chianti Classico DOCG 2009 made from 100% Sangiovese. The terrain is hilly and the vineyards are at 500 meters. The soil is galestro and alberese. The vineyards were planted in the late nineties and Nicola said these were the youngest vines on the property. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeast. Aging is for a minimum of 15 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and 6 months in bottle . 

Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 made from 100% Sangiovese from a careful selection of grapes from vineyards with the best exposure. The vineyards were planted in the late 1980’s. The training system is spurred cordon and guyot. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeast. Aging is in Slavonian oak barrels for a minimum of 22 months and 6 months in bottle.

Anfiteatro IGT Colli Toscana Centrale 2011 made from 100% Sangiovese from the Anfiteatro vineyard planted in 1985. The training system is bilateral cordon. Fermentation is in stainless steel with indigenous yeast. The wine is aged for 28 months in 5HL barrels and 10 Hl barrels and a minimum of 12 months in bottle before release. This is a very big wine that needs more time.

Paolo, Julia and Antonio a family run restaurant. Aranci 142 Old Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897 203-587-1300




Filed under Ananci67, Italian Red Wine, Montefili, Restaurant

Prosecco and Pizza Masterclass at Ribalta NYC

Last fall, Rosario Procino invited me to be a judge at a pizza and Prosecco contest at Ribalta, his restaurant. The contest consisted of pizzas made by 5 different pizzaioli and we were judging which pizza went best with Prosecco. It was great fun and all of the pizzas were winners and went great with the Prosecco as far as I was concerned.

Recently I was invited by Gruppo Italiano: Restoratori, Distributori ed Importatori  to go to Ribalta for pizza and Prosecco.  This time, it was not for a contest but for a Pizza & Prosecco Master Class. The speaker was Tess Rose, wine educator.

There were 3 flights of Prosecco each with three wines.

Pasquale Cozzolino the chef/pizzaiolo at Ribalta made 3 different pizzas to go with each of the flights.

The first flight of Prosecco was Extra Dry, the second also Extra Dry but with a little more residual sugar and the last was Brut, which is the “driest” of the 3. Prosecco DOCG has three levels of sweetness: “Dry” 17-32 g/l, “Extra Dry” 12-17 g/l, and “Brut” 0 -12 g/l.

Prosecco is the leading selling sparkling wine in Italy. In addition, it outsells Champagne in the UK and sales of Prosecco increase every year in the United States

Prosecco is produced exclusively in the area of northeast Italy between the Dolomites and the Adriatic Sea. The two regions in which Prosecco is produced are Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in 9 provinces.

Prosecco DOCG must be made with at least 85% Glera grapes with the addition of Verdiso, Bianchetta, Trevigana, Petera and Gela Lunga. Prosecco Superiore Spumante may also contain up to 15% of Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero and Chardonnay.

When at least a minimum of 85% of the wine comes from a specific vintage, the year may be indicated on the bottle along with the term Millesimato.

Prosecco may be made in 3 different styles: Spumante bubbly), Frizzante, lightly effervescent), or Tranquillo (still). Only the Spumante version is allowed to have the name Superiore.

Most sparking Proseccos are made using the “Charmat Method” in an autoclave (pressurized tank). For “metodo classico,” it is also permitted to carry out the second fermentation in the bottle.

The vine training system for Prosecco can be double  arched cane, sylvoz, guyot and metodo spalliera.

The Prosecco Extra Dry: Astoria, Mionetto, La Marca, Carati 075, Perlino, Sant’Anna. Brut: Bianca Vigna, Torresella, Valdo.

Sant’Anna Extra Dry Prosecco NV made from 100 Glera. The grapes are destemmed  and gently crushed The must is then transfered into steel vats where fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature.When yeast is put  into the tanks and remains for a period of 4 months it tranforms the wine into a sparking wine. This is a Prosecco with hints of peach, pear and a touch of white flowers.

Valdo Brut Prosecco DOC NV Made from 100% Glera (Veneto). The vineyards are the traditional “Metodo Spalliera”, where the stems can be as long as one meter and are tied to a horizontal wire. Grapes are hand picked during the last week of September. Soft pressing and fermentation occurs at 64F in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. To obtain small and fine bubbles (perlage) a selection of natural yeasts is made. There is 3 months of Charmat-Martinotti aging, followed by 3 months in bottle before release. This is a sparkling wine with hints of peach, melon, pear and golden apple.

The Proseccos we tasted were all made  by the Charmat-Martinotti method. For the most part the flavor profiles are much the same, the only difference is in the amount of residual sugar.

I  liked all of the Prosecco that I tasted. However I think the Extra Dry works much better as a aperitif.

With the first flight we had the pizza topped with smoked mozzarella, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes and a touch of hot pepper.  This was the most difficult pairing, as the touch of hotness in the topping did not make for a good combination with the Extra Dry Prosecco.

With the second flight we had the pizza topped with mozzarella, speck and 30 month old Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The Extra Dry Prosecco with a little more residual sugar worked a little better with this pizza.

For the last flight we had the pizza topped with ‘nduja, a spicy sausage spread and mozzarella. This pizza was paired with the Prosecco Brut and it was the best of the 3 combinations.

Happy  4th of July!!!





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Filed under Pizza, Pizza and Wine, Prosecco, Ribalta

Portuguese White Wine, Beer and Olive Oil

Last November Michele and I spent a week in Lisbon and had a wonderful time experiencing this beautiful country, so I was happy to accept an invitation to a Portuguese wine tasting on Portugal’s National Day, June 10.  This important holiday is observed in Portugal and by Portuguese citizens and emigrants all over the world. The tasting was at Hearth Restaurant in NYC. The host for the event was Esporao and the speaker was Alex Pratt, MS.

Established in 1973, Esporao is a large company and produces wine, beer and olive oil, all of which I was able to sample. The chief winemaker is an Australian, David Braverstock.  The wines were from the Esporao estate in the Alentejo region and the Quinta dos Murcas estate in the Douro region to the north. There were 12 wines, 6 white and 6 reds.

It was a wine tasting but we started with a beer Sovina Hells (Munich).  This was the first crafted beer produced and bottled in Portugal (2008). It is inspired by the traditional recipe for Helles Munich beers. Mr. La Pratt said Sovina means “tight wad” in Portuguese slang.

Here are the 6 white wines we tasted. I will do the reds is a separate blog.

Quinto dos Murcas Estate is situated in the between Baixo and Cima-Corgo sub regions of the Douro. It is positioned on the right bank of the Douro River, between the towns of Régua and Pinhao. There are 383 acres of which 118 are planted with indigenous grape varieties. They were the first to break from the traditional terrace plantings. The high density of vertical plantings helps stabilize the soil against erosion.

Assobio Branco 2018 made Douro from Viosinho, Verdelho, Rabigato, Gouveio and Codego do Larinho grapes. At the edge of the Quinta dos Murcas there is a valley formed by steep slopes. It is the highest vineyard plot here at 2,300 ft. When the wind blows it makes a whistling sound and Assobio means whistle in Portuguese. The soil is schistous and granitic and the vines are 20 years old. Maturation takes place in stainless steel tanks on the lees.

Monte Velho Branco 2018 made from Antao Vaz, Perrum and Roupeiro (Palomio in Spanish) and Roupeiro (aka Codega in the Douro). Made from 50% estate grapes and 50% purchased grapes. The average age of the vines is 18 years.

The soil is schist/granite origin with clay loam structure. Vinification is in stainless steel. The first vintage was in 1991. This is one of the most popular wines in Portugal.

Herdade do Esporão Esate is situated in the Reguengos de Monsaraz DOC and Alentejo’s montado ecosystem (cork oak forest). There are 1710 acres of organically grown vineyards, olive groves, other crops and 4 types of olives.

Esporäo Verdelho Branco, Alentejo 2017 made from 100% Verdelho. The soil is a granite/schist base with a clay/loam structure and the vines are 15 years old. In 2004 David Baverstock, instigated the plantings of Verdelho in Alentejo believing it would do well there. The cuttings came from Madeira and today you can also find Verdelho in the Dao. Vinification is in stainless steel.

Esporäo Colherita Branco, Alentejo 2018 made from Antao Vaz, Viosinho, Alarinho and other grapes grown organically at Herdade do Esporao, an organic certified vineyard that is 8 years old. The soil is schist rock with a loamy clay structure. Vinification is in stainless steel. The wine needs 3 to 4 years before it is ready to drink 

Esporäo Reserva Branco 2017, Alentejo made from Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro from 18-year-old vines. The soil is granite/schist base, with a loam/clay structure. The wine is made exclusively from estate grown grapes. Barrel fermentation is in French oak.

Esporäo Private Selection Branco 2017 made from 95% Semillon and 5% field blend. The wine was created in 2001 to challenge the classic profile of the Alentejo wines. Using Semillon was David’s idea, specifically from Barossa. The first planting was in 1993-1994. The soil is predominantly clay and the age of the vines is 22-26 years. The wine sees some time in oak. This wine qualifies as a garrafeira but is not bottled as one as  this variety is not recognized for garrafeira (wine that has been aged for at least 2 years in wood and another year in bottle).


With the wines we had shrimp


Esporao Olival dos Arrifes Organic produced from Arbequina and Cobrançosa olives using organic production methods. The groves are at Herdade do Espoão. The olive grove was certified for Organic production in 2009


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The Wine Media Guild at I-Trulli Restaurant

The Wine Media Guild, an association of wine communicators, held its annual end of the year dinner at i-Trulli restaurant in NYC. I was formerly the wine director/sommelier at i Trulli and returning there always brings back a lot of memories.  In addition, Pat Savoie and I were stepping down as co-chairs and David Ransom and Nick Antonaccio. were taking over as the new co-chairs.

There were many great bottles of wine drunk that evening, too many to list here thou I did get a chance to taste some of them

The list below were just the wines that we drank at my table. As always we started with Champagne.

Champagne Henriot “Millésime 2008 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. Ed (Champagne for Dummies) McCarthy, was sitting at my table, and said this house is finally getting the praise it deserves. Great way to start the evening.

Champagne Deutz Blancs De Blancs 1989 in magnum made from 100% Chardonnay. It has lemon and lime aromas, a note of cream and a touch of hazelnut. It was in perfect condition.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2005 Eduardo Valentini made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is one of my favorite white wines. We should have decanted the wine because it took some time to open up in the glass but when it did it was wonderful.

Among the appetizers there were panzarotti, crisp  fried  turnovers  filled  with  tomatoes  and  mozzarella.


For the pasta cause there was  orecchiette with broccoli rabe.  The pasta is handmade by Dora Mazovilla,  the  mother  of  the  owner.

The main course was sliced steak with an arugula salad.


Chateau Haut Brion 1983 made from 45% merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc and a note of Petit Verdot. It was a pleasure to drink.

Château Corton Grancey Grand Cru 1999 Louis Latour in magnum. It is a blend of four areas of Domaine Latour Corton Grand Cru: Bressandes, Perrieres, Gréves and Clos du Roi, proportions depending on the vintage. Traditional fermentation takes place in open vats. 10 to 12 months aging in oak barrels, 35% new. Louis Latour cooperage, French oak, medium toasted. This is a wine with supple tannins, wonderful aromas with great length and finish. It also took some time to open up in the glass.

Pormmard Grands Epenots 1979 Hurbet de Montille made from 100% Pinot Noir using a significant proportion of whole clusters, varying by vintage. They are known for wines that can age. It was drinking very well.

Carema 1989 Produttori di Carema (a co-op in the Northern part of Piedmont) made from 100% Nebbiolo. Small plots are hand harvested from various members of the co-op. All the vineyards are southeast facing and range in altitude from 300 to 600 meters. Traditional vinification, the wine is fermented and aged for at least 48 months in large Slavonian oak casks. It has hints of red cherries, red roses; leather and tar. The wine was in perfect condition.

Chateau Coutet a Barsac “Cuvee Madame 1989 made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. Barsac is technically part of the Sauternes region but its sandy and limestone soil produce a lighter sweet wine with balanced acidity. The wine has hints of tropical fruit, ginger, candied apricot and a touch of honey. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful evening.

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Filed under Bordeaux, Burgundy, Carema, Champagne, Chateau Coutet Cuvee Madame, Deutz Blanc de Blances, Henriot, Uncategorized

Pizze Fritte and Pasta alla Chitarra — Eating in Abruzzo

by Michele Scicolone

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, rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. But on this visit, Charles and I were invited to Abruzzo to experience great wine and cuisine. These are some of the highlights of the food.

When we arrived at Cataldi Madonna Winery in Ofena, we were greeted by the owner’s daughter Giulia, and welcomed with an array of their wines to taste. For Charles’ report on the wines, go to Two cooks were frying small disks of dough dusted with sea salt for pizze fritte, meant to be eaten hot with the hand sliced local prosciutto.

The warmth of the bread brought out the earthy flavors of the prosciutto and an assortment of other salumi. There were also several cheeses made from sheep’s milk.

After our snack, the next stop was a walk up to the Rocca Calascio, an 11th Century fort, one of the oldest in Italy, located within the Gran Sasso National Park. Lunch followed at a rustic restaurant.

We began with a hearty bean soup topped with crisp croutons,

followed by polenta with pork ribs in a tomato sauce. The Abruzzese love spicy food and a bowl of ground dried chilies, peperoncino, was passed with each dish. We drank the wines of Cataldi Mandonna that we had tasted at the winery.

Later we visited the spectacular Zacagnini Winery. Mr. Enzo Vogliolo, the marketing director accompanied us to dinner where we began with delicate crepes, crespelle, to eat with culatello, a type of ham similar to prosciutto, made from the choicest part of the pig.

There were more delicious cheeses, accompanied by local honey and preserves.

Next came arrosticini, an icon of Abruzzese cooking, small pieces of precisely cut cubes of lamb grilled on bamboo skewers. Mr. Vogliolo  said  the meat was agnellone, from mature lambs. Though we had arrosticini on several occasions on this trip, this version was by far the best. The lamb was tender and juicy and infused with the smoky flavors of the grill. A few members of our group competed to see who could devour the most skewers.

We drank  the  Zaccagnini  Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo  and  the  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with our meal.

The next day we visited the medieval town of Pretoro and had lunch at La Torre Restaurant. There, Concetta, the owner and chef, gave us a lesson in how to make pasta alla chitarra, the classic square shaped spaghetti of Abruzzo. She is a master of the art and her tips and tricks were invaluable. “Farina, farina, farina,” she would say, tossing clouds of flour at our pasta to be sure it would not stick.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

To make it, you will need to have a chitarra to cut the pasta. It is a wooden frame strung with wires that resembles a guitar and you can purchase one on the web.

Concetta cooked and sauced our pasta with a classic lamb ragu.

We also had time to try our hands at making potato gnocchi which we ate with a green vegetable sauce. Afterward we had lamb two ways, one rolled and stuffed with spinach and cheese, and the other roasted.

We drank the Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo and the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the co-op Lunaria.



That night we had dinner on a trabocco. Fishermen traditionally used these wooden piers topped with a shed that jut far out from the shore to catch fish from. The one we visited had been converted to a restaurant.

We began with hot, crispy fritto misto wrapped in a paper cone.

Then there was a plate of cold seafood. Baked scallops came next,

followed by heaping platters of small sea snails cooked in a tomato sauce.

While some of our group were not interested in eating the snails, others couldn’t seem to get enough.

The snails were followed by rigatoni in a mixed seafood sauce, then fish fillets baked in paper thin potato slices.

We drank the Cuvé Prestige 830 and the Riseis from Agriverde.

Possibly my favorite meal of the whole trip was the one we enjoyed at Agriturismo Grappolo D’Oro.

A group of local musicians singing folk music and playing traditional instruments greeted us.

The antipasto consisted of an assortment of Abruzzese bread and focaccia, frittatas, vegetables and cheeses.

We all loved the bread “meatballs,” just like meatballs but made without meat and shaped like sausages simmered in a tomato sauce. As we watched, our hosts prepared pasta alla chitarra, but this version was made with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine, and took on a purplish color. It was topped simply with cheese and good olive oil.

Grilled plump, juicy sausages followed, some sweet and some spicy hot. We ended with bocconoti, tender individual pies filled with pastry cream accompanied by fresh cherries. There was more music and lots of wine throughout the meal.

We drank the Fenaroli Brut 36 Metodo Classico and the Ferzo Pecorino and Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo from Citra a large co-op.

Later that day we attended the grand tasting of wines from Abruzzo at Villa Estea, a beautiful palazzo overlooking the ocean. Dozens of winemakers attended and we were able to taste a variety of wines from all over the region.


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