What To Drink While Watching the Oscars?


Despite the tundra where we now live, it will be warm inside and tonight’s a big night for those who follow the movies as well as for all Downton Abbey (DA) fans. I count myself in both camps and I’ll be hard pressed to decided which to watch. I know I will have a glass of something while I flipping between them. When watching DA, I always think I should have a claret (Bordeaux) but while watching the Oscars, a wine from California. I can split the difference and have a Bordeaux style wine made in California most certainly. What might that be? Perhaps a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes or a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend? So many different styles of wine to choose from.

There is a whole association dedicated to this pursuit in fact. Meritage is the term for wines made from these blends in the United States. I rarely used to drink these wines but as I am now enrolled in the mighty Master of Wine program, I am tasting everything I can and thinking about wine styles in a new way.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Goldtraminer Bianco, Gosen Nero, Granoir Nero


This week’s indigenous varieties are all ones that I had never heard of and first met in a book I own on indigenous varieties in Italy. Goldtraminer as you might expect is a cross created in 1947 by Rebo Rigotti at San Michele all’Adige between Traminer and Garganega. The grape is aromatic and is especially useful in making late harvest wines.

Gosen Nero was also created by Rebo Rigotti at San Michele all’Adige but this one was done in 1950 and is a cross between Carmenere and Teroldego. It has a very thick skin and is well suited to Northern regions in Italy with wet autumns. It is a very vigorous grape variety and thus needs to be limited in order to produce quality fruit.

The third variety for today is Granoir Nero which grows in the Valle d’Aosta, a cross between Gamay and Reichsteiner, created by M. Andre Jaquinet.

None of these varieties are ones that you will likely find at your local liquor store but you may come across them in your travels within il Bel Paese.


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Wine of the Week: Marzagaglia Primitivo Gioia del Colle


This week’s wine of the wine is from Tenuta Patruno Perniola located in the Murgia pugliese, in the town of Gioia del Colle, which is between the provinces of Bari and Taranto. The family has owned the property since the 1800s. It is focused exclusively on Primitivo which they make in a number of different versions, oaked, aged in stainless steel and sweet. The vineyards are located at 350 meters above sea level with constant breezes, good thermal excursion and rich soils filed with minerals that give the earth a red color and the nickname “red earth.”

I tried a number of their Primitivos at Vino 2015 and the one that I preferred was that made in a neutral vessel. Not a huge fan of the grape, I was surprised at how elegant and refined it was without being over the top. According to the winery’s website, their goal is to let the grape speak for itself and neither to make a big oaky version nor one that is a fruit bomb. I think they were successful in their efforts and I quite enjoyed the wine, much to my surprise. I worked at the Puglia tasting that day and tried a number of other wines made with this grape that were very interesting, albeit a bit too alcoholic for my taste. I’d love to go back to Puglia to taste these wines in situ, one of the loveliest of Italian regions, and that is certainly saying something.

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Wine of the Week: Rolland &Galarreta Rioja D.O.Ca.

R & G Event

This week’s wine of the week is from Rolland & Galarreta, a joint project between Michel Rolland and Javier Galarreta. The pair teamed up to make wines in Rioja, Ribera and Rueda. The Rioja was from Alavesa from 25-40 year old vines. It was made from 100% Tempranillo and was lush ruby red in color with an elegant bouquet of floral and fruit notes as well as American oak undertones. On the palate, the wine was elegant and voluptous with a long finish.

Rolland & Galarreta

This new project which they announced in October at an event at the Tribeca Grill hosted by the Connected Table produces 500,000 bottles from 500 hectares of vineyards throughout the regions. They make approximately 150,000 of each one of the wines. The Rioja spent 10 months in American oak and is made to drink now rather than age, according to Rolland. He is interested in the more modern versions of Rioja he noted. The pair are able to pool considerable resources and to use such modern techniques as optical sorting. The wine retails for $23.

Wine Lineup

Charlie Arturaola was also part of the event, presenting a trailer of his movie The Duel of Wine. Charlie is a friend and I’m a big fan of his so whenever he is part of something I know it is something to consider.

Charlie Arturaola

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Italian Wine Week in NYC


Two big events in Italian life this week, a new President, Sergio Mattarella and Italian wine week in New York City with both Vino and I Tre Bicchieri slated for this week. I know they are not of the same order but both matter to the health of Italy – politically the former and economically the latter. Additionally rather than joining with Vinitaly this year, Slow Wine is part of Vino.


I’ll be at both shows this week working in one of the seminars at Vino and for a Sardinian producer at Tre Bicchieri. Come say hello. I’ve barely recovered from my introduction to the world of Masters of Wine during the intense residential seminar in Napa this past January. Looking to taste with renewed focus, I’m excited about the opportunities available in NYC despite the weather. Vino’s focus this year is on Southern Italian regions including Puglia, Campania, Calabria and Sicilia.I look forward to seeing old friends and maybe making some new ones in the trade.

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Italian Regions: Lombardy – Thinking About Milano Before the Expo


As I read all the articles about the big push to visit Milan for the Expo, I am reflecting on all the years I spent there and how often people overlooked not just Lombardy (Milan is the capital) but the wines from the region, the food and well, almost everything.

I had the pleasure of living in Lombardy, in Milan, for 10 years from 1995 to 2005. It was a fabulously interesting place to live and I still feel that it is my third home. My first being New York and my second, Florence where I spent the first years of my Italian life and left a little piece behind. Milan though is where I lived 2/3 of my 15 years in Italy.


I have a number of clients in Milan, colleagues, and many friends there and go very frequently. This has allowed me to keep an eye on the evolution of the city, the region and all things related to Milan. When living there, I almost never drank or even saw any wines from Lombardy, except those from Franciacorta and Valtellina.


I have had the pleasure of discovering just how wrong I was in thinking that the selection was limited. Lombardy has great wines produced from some local and more international varieties.

Mountains in Milan

Pinot Noir from the Oltrepo’ region is always a favorite of mine for example. I especially like the wines made by the Conte Vistarino family which apparently introduced the grape to the region in the 1800s.

Oltrepo’ is just one of the many areas in Lombardy though where wines are made. Another wine region that I like is Bergamo. I did a really interesting project years ago for the Cantina Bergamasca and discovered the pleasure of Pinot Bianco made in this region. I’ve always loved the city of Bergamo so I felt doubly blessed.


I also have tried wines from Mantova when visiting the Lombardy pavilion at Vinitaly.

Every year I start my day at Vinitaly in the Lombardy pavilion. It’s a great way to taste different wines and to get time in the press room during the same interval of time, something that always seems limited at Vinitaly. The wine that stuck in my mind was their version of Lambrusco, typically a grape that brings one to think of Emilia Romagna not Mantova.

Lambrusco Mantovano has been a DOC since 1987. There is also another area called the Colli Mantovani which is actually on the border between the Veneto and Lombardy that also makes DOC wines. These wines are made from a blend of indigenous and international varieties.

Lake Garda

Another area that straddles the Veneto and Lombardy is the Lake Garda region, another one of my favorites and the only one I will swim in. Garda is beautiful as everyone who has ever visited knows. The wines I prefer from this area are those made from Turbiana that make Lugana, a fresh and lively white wine that is minerally and a perfect wine for an aperitivo or with light fare. I spent a long time trying these wines two years ago and have had the pleasure of meeting many producers as I went on a press trip last year.

No discussion of wines from Lombardy could be complete without mentioning the two most famous regions, Franciacorta and Valtellina. I feel that they merit their own commentary. I adore the wines of Franciacorta and have always believed that they are not appreciated enough in the United States.

The Valtellina is another area of Lombardy that captured my heart years ago. I will write about those amazing wines made from Nebbiolo and locally called Chiavennasca in another post.

There are a few more areas that deserve a mention but the last one that I need to note is San Colombano. I feel that Milan’s only wine region always needs a little push. 10 years and many friends creates considerable loyalty and I am more than affectionate towards my adopted city and its’ local wine.


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Winery of the Week: Gualdo del Re from Suvereto

Barbara Tamburini

This week’s winery of the week is Gualdo del Re, a winery in Suvereto. Barbara Tamburini, the lovely lady in the photo is their amazing winemaker and a friend of mine who will be here next week for Vino!

While organic and biodynamic viniculture is more widespread in Italy than people realize, most producers who follow these practices still do not get certification. One winery bucking this trend is Gualdo del Re in Suvereto, a lovely town in Southern Tuscany, not too far from the Mediterranean coast. On a clear day, you can even see the island of Elba in the distance.

Terroir GDR

Teresa and Nico Rossi, the owners of Gualdo del Re, have always worked the land using organic methods, but felt that certification was a further seal of approval recognizable by consumers who want to be certain they are purchasing “natural” products. After completing the three year process for certification, they received approval in 2011 for two of their white wines: Eliseo Bianco 2011 and Valentina 2011. Their red wines will be certified by the start of 2014.

Barrigues GDR

Gualdo produces a classic line-up of wines from Valentina, a Vermentino, an award winning Merlot, L’Rennero, made from 100% Merlot and aged for 36 months; 15 months in oak barriques and 21 months in the bottle. There is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon called Federico I and an interesting 100% Aleatico from Elba DOC called Amansio. Valentina and Federico are the names of their children.

Restaurant GDR

A forward-looking pair in all ways, Nico and Teresa hired a top female enologist at a time when women in the cellar were pretty rare. Barbara Tamburini, has been with Gualdo for about 13 years. She started her career working with noted Tuscan enologist Vittorio Fiore.
Val di Cornia, where Suvereto is located, only recently received its denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (DOCG). Yet the Val di Cornia became a DOC in November of 1989. There are only six towns that may use this legislation for wine labeling and that includes Campiglia Marittima, Piombino, San Vincenzo, Suvereto, Sassetta and Monteverdi Marttimo. These towns are located in the provinces of Livorno and Pisa.

Stainless Steel GDR

Nico and Teresa have been singing the praises of their area for years, well before the DOCG recognition. A wine industry expert said he felt the area was similar to Pomerol in terms of the terroir and growing potential of certain grapes. Gualdo del Re also cultivates olive trees and makes grappa. The soil is a mixture of limestone, sandy, and clay. This area of Tuscany has a mild climate due to the tempering influence of ocean breezes. The wines exhibit their terroir and have both minerally and salinity. The grapes are very healthy as well because of these constant breezes.

The woods where Gualdo del Re’s 25 hectares of vines are located were a King’s retreat in the Middle Ages. There are numerous medieval towns with ancient ruins in this Etruscan Coast area. Nico and Teresa have created a “piccolo paradiso” in this lovely spot complete with delicious wines, a fine restaurant and a bed and breakfast set amidst pine woods and olive grows. They also have an agriturismo nearby where they are very careful with their use of water. The entire area is one viticultural park.

Ducks GDR
During my visit a couple of years ago, Teresa was furious because hunters had wandered onto her land. Wild pheasant and rabbits frolic in this area, usually untroubled by man. Part of the environmental vision that Nico and Teresa have also pertains to animals and how healthy the area is for them. Nico and Teresa also breed ducks in their pond and grow vegetables in an orchard.

Agriturismo GDR

While Nico and Teresa noted that they haven’t seen much excitement in Italy over organic wines, especially because of the difficult economic situation that most people are facing. However, the pair remain convinced that they are absolutely certain that this is the direction for them and for the future of their wines.

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