Saturday Sweet Spot: Cannellino from Zagarolo


My post yesterday on Tuscany reminded me of the 12-hour Christmas I spent one year at my friend’s table in Rome.

Fountain in Piazza Navona - Rome

She is from Sicily, her husband is from Bologna, her cousins were from Naples, one of the other guests was Milanese and we were in Rome so we had all the desserts from each of these regions. It was an exceptional panoply of sugars of various types. I left the table at one point to go to see the Pope, after all it was Christmas morning in Rome.


I have also spent Christmas and Easter I believe with my friend in Zagarolo, a town in the Castelli Romani area. There we always have an amazing feast that finishes with ciambelle al vino and the local Cannellino wine made from Malvasia and Trebbiano. While that Christmas lasted for 12 hours, this friend’s wedding went on for approximately four days and much wine and many donuts were consumed.

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A Florentine Christmas – Buone Feste!


Florence is beautiful any time of year but I especially love it when all of the Christmas lights are up. The streets are all strung with lights and there is always a tree in the principal piazzas. I especially love all of the decorations in stores. Everything feels very festive and the whole town shut down from December 24 to January 6, after the feast day of the Epiphany, locally known as La Befana.

Palazzo Strozzi

The Italians have a saying, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua dove vuoi” which translates into stay at home with your relatives for Christmas and go anywhere you want for Easter. No one travels more than the Italians largely because most have six weeks of holiday. For Christmas though everyone tries to stay at home. Many leave the next day, December 26 or December 27 either for Ski locals or warmer climes. In some towns, Christmas is celebrated on December 13, Santa Lucia, but in most it is celebrated on December 24 and 25.

Making Pasta In Florence

Here I am making homemade ravioli with friends in Florence but not for Christmas when Tortelli in Brodo are usually the pasta of the day. This dish is not from Tuscany but everyone always eats it then. One part of the Christmas meal that is very Tuscan are the Crostini con Fegato, not my favorite dish, but a necessary one. The meal continues with a roast, side dishes and then a parade of desserts, again, many from other parts of Italy. One very Tuscan tradition though is the Vin Santo.

Vin Santaia

Vin Santo is made from dried grapes that spend time in small barrels called carratelli. These pictures were taken at Castello di Poppiano.


I love Vin Santo, both the traditional version and Occhio di Pernice which comes from Sangiovese grapes and is much rarer.
Occhio di Pernice - Poggio Bonelli

On my table I always have a bottle of Susanna Crociani’s Vin Santo, a family favorite.

Crociani Vin Santo

With the Vin Santo, everyone dips their cantucci, the Tuscan biscotto par excellence. I have spent many a Christmas in Tuscany and it has always been an all day affair. A huge lunch, lots of games of cards, more eating and maybe a walk between lunch and dinner. I once sat at the table for 12 hours but that was in Rome. All told, Christmas in Florence is magical and nowhere do I prefer to wait for Babbo Natale than on the banks of the Arno.

However you celebrate your Christmas we’ll have lots to share on how Christmas is celebrated throughout all of Italy so don’t miss it! Here is a preview of what’s to come this Saturday December 3rd. Join us for a live Twitter chat this Saturday at #ItalianFWT 11am EST.

Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise
Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition
Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti
Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas
L’Occasion – 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings
The Wining Hour – A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition
The Wine Predator – Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to CAlifornia Conditions: 3 dishes with wine

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Indigenous Italian Varieties: Lambrusco Maestri

emilia romagna

This particular variety of Lambrusco hails from the area around Parma, a city I adore. Parma is a beautiful, elegant and I dare say feminine city. I loved the Duomo and the baptistry there done by Antelami. The province of Parma runs from the Po River to the Appennines, separating it from both Lombardy and Tuscany. I loved the paintings in the Duomo as well by
Correggio and Parmigianino. Of course Parma is very famous not only for its Art and music but for its food and wines, the topic of this post. Lambrusco Maestri. It is a hearty and fertile variety that produces wines with full bodied and tannic wines with a depth of color. It is often used to make the sweet and the frizzante versions of Lambrusco. It is considered one of the more prestigious Lambrusco grapes. Maestri has also been grown with success in Argentina and is planted in Australia as well. I would love a glass to celebrate the start of the holiday season today, the first day it is snowing on my blog. Happy December.

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Wine Wednesday: Pol Roger Extra Cuvee Reserve

Pol Roger

Celebrating life with Champagne. I love Champagne and I love this particular one quite a lot. Pol Roger is one of the last few champagne houses that are still entirely family owned. In fact, my very first wine tasting in New York years ago was a Wildman portfolio tasting, Pol Roger’s importer, and a member of the family was there pouring their wines. A very elegant older gentleman, it was a memorable experience. The family has some 220 acres of vineyards, mostly in the south of Epernay and the Cotes de blancs. This particular Champagne is composed of one third Pinot Noir, one third Chardonnay and one third Meunier. It spends three years on its lees. Each grape brings different aspects to the blend: Pinot Noir brings body, Pinot Meunier provides freshness and fruit notes and Chardonnay enhances the experience by adding an elegant lift.

This Champagne has a beautiful perlage, lovely floral and fruit notes as well as nutty and toasty aromas and flavors that make this a classic and a great one to celebrate sweetness in your life. I drank it right after my beautiful, long desired son arrived in 2014. Every time I have this wine, I think of how marvelous that bottle was indeed. Cheers to life and to Niccolo’, my exquisite boy.

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Monday Musings: Wine Education In The Age of Trump

This week I can’t help but wondering how wine education will change under the new President-elect. Will we no longer study climate change and it’s impact on wine grapes. Will we ignore all the evidence that points to climate change being largely a result of human activity. Will we also no longer study how to improve our carbon footprints and lessen the impact of the industry on businesses. I wonder if anyone in the American Association of wine economists will do a study on what his election may do to the business. If anyone has heard of such a study, please let me know. I am curious to read it.

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Post Thanksgiving Recovery: Sipping Beaujolais Nouveau


Like many of you, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving replete with lots of family and lots of food. Recovering from this most festive and food oriented holiday is never easy. I had great wines yesterday from Spain and France, including a fantastic 1985 Burgundy from Musigny. It would be hard to top that I figured so today I decided to go in a completely different direction and sip a Beaujolais Nouveau at lunch in a French bistro. One might think that’s a shocking day after response but I think it totally appropriate. Not much is going to compare to last night’s wine so why try to go in the same direction. Beaujolais Nouveau Day is the third Thursday in November. Today’s wine was the first one I had this year. According to French law, this wine may from Gamay grapes can be released at 12:01 a.m., quite soon after the harvest. Many of quite critical of Beaujolais Nouveau and it’s fresh, fruity style. I am not among those who critique this cheerful wine. I’m not going to lay it down either but as with much of life, it’s all about expectations and as we know, that is the key to success in every area. Sante’!

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Wine of the Week: Cremant de Limoux Rose from Domaine Martinolles


This Wednesday’s wine of the week was a Cremant Rose from Martinolles that I had last night at Raouls with friends. The wine is made from a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir. It is made using the traditional method and spends some 15 months in the bottle before being released into the market. The vinification is done using whole cluster pressing. I had it with skate but could also see it pairing well with sushi and salmon. The domaine is in town of Saint-Hilaire, where the Blanquette de Limoux wines were born. The soils are a mixture of clay and calcareous matter. The wine has both fruity and floral characteristics. It had a fair amount of residual sugar. around 14 g/l, which surprised me but also good acidity. I really enjoyed it and would buy it in a store to drink at home as well. It’s widely available and priced around $18. It would work well with Thanksgiving foods as well from the turkey to cranberry relish as well as cheeses and sides.

I’m having a sparkling rose moment so it went perfectly with my latest deep dive into these wines. The winery is apparently quite close to Carcassone, a
city in France that I have never visited but have always longed to see. Perhaps now I have two reasons to go on my next trip.

I had this wine at Raoul’s. It was a real New York evening, in a real New Yorky bar/restaurant of old. It was great to be out and see the New York I want to see rather than box stores and high-rises. Raoul’s recently celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, a long time for a restaurant. It was started by two brothers from Alsace, Guy and Serge.

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Filed under Aude, France, Rose, sparkling wine, Wine of the Week, Wine Wednesday