What To Bring To Memorial Day Picnic/Party: Sparkling Wine

Italian Sparkling Wine

I love eating outside and this weekend is supposed to be really hot so I am only in the mood for whites – particularly sparkling wine, of all kinds. I think your party hosts will agree with me and a bottle of something bubbly will do the trick. There are so many sparklers in the world that I love, Italian and others: Franciacorta, Prosecco, Trento DOC, Champagne, Cava, Blanquette di Limoux, and others. Last week at the Penin tasting I tried many fantastic Cavas and all would be a great choice with your holiday fare. I know I will be toasting with sparkling wine next week. I hope you will too.

In Italy, so many producers are making sparkling wine from indigenous varieties that you really have your pick of wines. I am excited to hear what you will be drinking. Cin Cin!

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USA & Italy – My Favorite Combination At Barboursville Winery in Virginia

As Memorial Day approaches and I see so many sailors around New York City, my thoughts go to USA wines and USA veterans. I don’t know of any wineries started by US veterans. I am sure there are some though and I would love to taste their wines. Often Memorial Day is about picnics and the start of the summer but I try to remember what it really stands for and those who have sacrificed so much for this country. According to Wikipedia
“Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.[1] The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May,[2] originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.[3] By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. Thank you to all those who have served our country, including all of older relatives who fought in WWII.


I’ve wanted to visit the Barboursville Winery in Virginia for about four years or ever since I picked up a brochure on Virginia wineries and what great stuff an Italian named Luca Paschina had been doing with grapes, especially Viognier in that area. He was working at Barboursville which is owned by the Zonin family from the Veneto. Thomas Jefferson, once a residence of the big white house in the picture, actually designed the original home at Barboursville.

An added

Barboursville is an odd combination of American and Italian touches. The restaurant, aptly named the Palladio – both for the Zonin’s heritage from the Veneto and Jefferson’s preferred building style, served a lovely combination of Italian specialties with an American flair. The head sommelier of course hailed from Italy and is a member of the Italian Sommelier Association, as am I.

Barboursville is very famous for a wine…

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Remembering Giovanni Falcone – May 23, 1992

I watch Italian news every night after the PBS newshour and yesterday I realized that it was May 23 – the anniversary of Giovanni Falcone’s murder. Now it’s 24 years since his death and according to the Italian President, much has changed in terms of organized crime. I was happy to hear that piece of news. Falcone is still on my fridge and I think of him often.


Every year May 23 is a day that I mark in some way. It is the anniversary of the murder of a famous judge in Italy named Giovanni Falcone. His picture is on my refrigerator along with those of my family and Bruce Springsteen. Falcone was a hero in my world, a crusader for justice. He was also a man who was murdered with his wife and members of his “scorta” or protection detail by the Mafia. He was someone who was trying to do the right thing and make living in all parts of Italy, a country I love, better and freer for all.

Here’s a post I wrote about him a couple of years ago. I wonder what Italy would be like if he had lived and been able to continue his fight these last 21 years.

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Wine Wednesday: Ronco del Gelso Vigna Permuta Permuta



My wine of the week is Ronco del Gelso’s Vigna della Permuta. This wine is made from Malvasia, a grape that I am not usually partial to except when it comes from this particular part of Friuli, Isonzo. Here I find it shows great fruit, minerality, salinity and spice. A powerful combination that makes it a great food wine. I would love to have this wine with Indian food or Sushi. The aromas and flavors are due to the great micro-climate, soils and fresh breezes in this area as well as its proximity to the sea. The winery made it’s first official wine in 1988 when they were producing 3,000 bottles. They now make 150,000 some 28 years later. Most of their wines are whites but they also make a Cabernet and a red blend using Pignolo and Merlot. I tried a number of their wines at a tasting earlier this year and found them all to be beautifully made and elegant wines.


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Wine Grape of the Week: Vidiano, A Personal Favorite At Recent Tasting

Thinking about Greece and Greek Wine Week I reread this post. While some of the troubles seem to have slightly abated, since I wrote this post the migrant crisis always comes to mind when I think of Greece and the thousands of people who have gone to their shores. Being in NYC, the crisis can seem very far away. I wonder if sailing around the islands in Greece makes it all the more real when you come upon objects perhaps at sea or are somewhere where lots of migrants end up such as Lesbos. It is hard to know what to do because on the one hand you want to support the country and travel there while on the other, it feels wrong to be vacationing in a spot where so many people are suffering and have lost everything. I haven’t worked out in my mind what the right thing to do is yet. I think about this topic a lot and I remember not visiting Lampedusa for this reason as well.


Wines of Crete

Greece has been top of mind all week because of their financial troubles and what it may mean for Europe. In my previous life, I used to write about such events and their impact on stock markets. In my current life, thinking about Greece leads me to write about Greek wines I have tasted lately as well. I feel lucky to be able to consider both of these worlds part of my professional life.


The Wines of Crete tasting two weeks ago transported me back immediately to that sun blessed country. Their wine making history is very involved, dating back to ancient times that it is almost overwhelming to think about. I visited Crete many years ago and remember the taste of the tomatoes on the island, oddly enough but hadn’t had the wines in a couple of years. The tasting was a welcome moment to try grape varieties that…

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Livornese Bianco and Lumassina Bianco

Tuscan Views from Poppiano

I am back to my indigenous grape varieties series and this week I am writing about Livornese Bianco and Lumassina. The former grape hails from Tuscany which is the site of the picture above. The latter from Liguria which is shown in the picture below.

Ligurian Hill Towns

Neither grape is seen that often but both are only used to make wine rather than existing separately as table grapes. Livornese bianco does not come from the area around Livorno but rather from the one around Massa Carrara, not so far from Liguria in fact. This grape is usually blended with other local white varieties.

Lumassina is instead from the province of Savona in Liguria. It is often blended with another white variety called Bosco. It is a vigorous variety. One winery that is available in the United States that makes Lumassina is Punta Crena. I first met them many years ago at a tasting in New York. They are now brought in by Kermit Lynch so in very good hands indeed.


Lumassina is a great wine to drink with summer fare. It has nice acidity and mineral notes as well as the bitter almond finish typical of many Italian white wines. I have never tried one but it is also supposed to make lovely sparkling wine. Next week I will tackle the Lambrusco family of varieties and then move on to the letter “M” which should take me the rest of the year to complete as there are so many varieties that begin with that letter. I have thus far written 140 posts on Italian indigenous varieties on this blog over the last seven (7) years since I started this project for AltaCucina in 2009. I just found this video where I interviewed Paolo Vannini from Alta Cucina and Luca Maroni. It’s interesting to hear what people thought in 2010.

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Wine Wednesday: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon From Kenwood Vineyards


This week’s wine of the week is from Kenwood Vineyards. They sent me a sample to commemorate a Jack London occasion. Jack London and White Fang and books of that nature remind me of my Dad and my nephew. The wine though was more up my alley. I really enjoyed it and found the Cabernet to be elegant and restrained despite a clear use of oak and the high alcohol content (14.5%). I imagine it is the mountain fruit that allows it to seem restrained and elegant and not overly jammy or pumped up as much California Cabernet seems to me. A friend and I had it with pasta and it didn’t overwhelm our palates. Generally I would expect a California Cabernet to need more hearty fare but luckily this one didn’t. Kenwood Vineyards owns the Jack London Ranch which is located on the western slope of Sonoma Valley in Glen Ellen, California. The soils there are red and volcanic  and were first planted in the late 1800’s.

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