Monthly Archives: August 2009

Indigenous Italian Grape Varieties: Alionza and Ancellotta

Italy has a never ending supply of indigenous grape varieties. Some have world renown such as Aglianico, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo while most are little know outside of their own region. This is the case with the next two varietals, Alionza and Ancellotta

Both Alionza and Ancellotta hail from Emilia Romagna, a region in the center of the country well known for its fabulous food, charcuterie, cheeses and the like. Its’ wines are not quite as well known although Lambrusco was for many years the best selling wine in America.

Lambrusco has made a comeback in this millennium as well. There are a number of types of Lambrusco but the most famous are from the province of Modena. They are the Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, and the Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce. These sparkling wines accompany the traditional foods very well and have made serious inroads into the United States.

Ancellotta is a red grape that grows in Emilia Romagna, near the city of Modena. It is one of the grapes that go into making Lambrusco, specifically Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce.

To continue reading about these varieties, please check out my latest article on Altacucina Society’s website.

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Filed under Italian regions, italy, wines

Raising A Glass To Toast Senator Ted Kennedy

I have been away for a few weeks and have been somewhat remiss about writing on this blog. I will rectify that in the days to come but for today, I want to raise a glass to Senator Ted Kennedy who died late last night at the age of 77. I come from a very long tradition of liberalism and Senator Kennedy is somewhat of a family hero.

His death today truly saddened me and darkened a very bright light on our political landscape. I hope that the cause of his life, healthcare, will reunite the democratic party and that his passing will galvanize them to pass legislation that would have made him proud. For today though, I would like to toast Senator Kennedy and thank him for all the legislation that he helped to bring about which has changed our lives immeasurably. Like all great men, his work will live on and he shall always be remembered.

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Enjoying Summer With Sparkling Wines of All Stripes

I love sparkling wine in any season. I find I never tire of it and actually like to drink it throughout the whole meal. A dear friend with dreaded allergies to wine can only drink dry sparkling wines. We deduced that perhaps it is really an allergy to sugar. When fermented dry, some sparklers have very little residual sugar.

I enjoyed a lovely Cremant de Loire in the Tuileries in Paris yesterday. Pal mal.

Menu Tuileries

I love Paris in the Springtime and every season of the year. Cremant de Loire is a nice alternative to Champagne and has made a bit of headway in the United States but not nearly enough for me.

I wrote this article on sparkling wines for Gourmet Retailer this month. The field is becoming crowded with many new alternatives but I am thrilled.

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SWE Conference – A Worldwind of Wine, Old & New Friends

It’s been almost one week since the end of the Society of Wine Educators 2009 conference in Sacramento. I think I have finally recovered and have gathered at least some of my thoughts on what I gleaned from three intense days of wine seminars with the incomparable Jancis Robinson as the keynote speaker.

This year I decided to volunteer to work at the conference. That meant staying largely in one room and attending the seminars in that room. While I did go to a few sessions in other rooms, including the highlight of the conference which I will write about another day, I mostly attended the ones in my room. This forced me to attend seminars that I might have overlooked, such as fabulous ones on the Villages of the Southern Rhone, aged Australian wines, Food Friendliness of the Douro (Portugal), Italian varieties in California, Spanish varieties in California, Wines from Texas, Single vineyard Sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, Finding Value in Bordeaux, and the wine regions of Sonoma County.

A second group of seminars that I attended treated issues in the wine business such as traditionalist vs. modernist approaches to wine making, Can terroir be tasted?, what makes a great wine list, and wine pricing.

Needless to say, it was an impressive and very interesting few days. It also added further to my utmost admiration for those who achieve the lofty degrees of Master of Wine (MW) and Master Sommelier (MS). There were a number of MWs and MSs in attendance and I must say their breadth and depth of knowledge was quite amazing.

In between all of these tastings, dinners and such, I did get to see some old friends which was lovely, Sunny Gandara and Zita Keeley were in attendance as were Tracy Kamens, Marisa D’Vari, Rodolphe Boulanger, Eileen LeMonda and of course, the Italian Wine Guy and to make some new ones.

I even met the “mission man” whom Bruce Springsteen talks about in Spirit of the Night...It’s hard to believe Bruce is going to be 60. I digress.

Back to wine, Alfonso’s seminar, done with Guy Stout, on Italians and their varietals in California was quite informative and Alfonso’s appealing manner of talking about his roots made it all the more personal and frankly touching. The wealth of information about their arrival and the impact that Italians had on the American wine business seems worthy of at least a book or two. I know the perfect person to write it… He also reminded me to buy the Flip, a fabulous tool for aspiring videographers.


Filed under italy, Memorable Events, wines

Professional Tasting Is Not Only For Wine But For Chocolate and Tea As Well

I wrote this article for I-Italy about the Italian fine chocolate association, Cioccolati d’Italia.

Tasting cioccolate, I learned during the interview, is an extremely complex process, much like tasting wine.

I was lucky enough to taste many chocolates from four regions of Italy: the Veneto, Tuscany, Sicily and Piedmont. Each one was a work of art and was quite unique.

Over the weekend, I was also able to do a tea tasting at Vital Leaf in San Francesco with Ming, the owner.

Golden Gate

Tea seems to be quite complicated. I love all the jars with the tea. It reminds me of an old apothecary.

Ming let me taste a number of different teas and then prepared a special mixture for me. Wouldn’t it be fun to go to a wine bar and say exactly what you would like in a wine and have them blend it for you right there.

Vital Leaf

I also found out that tea is sometimes buried in the ground in order to help it age, much like Josko Gravner’s wines which are buried in amphorae.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as did my liver after a week long conference on wine in Sacramento hosted by the Society of Wine Educators. More on the conference to follow this week.

Ming at Vital Leaf


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