Monthly Archives: February 2011

Women in Wine: Vee Fitzgerald of WineLIFE & Solidarity for New Zealand

I decided to write this post today and at this hour because I know that there is a gathering to support New Zealand in Central Park this afternoon. I received these details from a very trustworthy font.

In summary, Kiwi filmmakers Sally Williams and Katie Hinsen, along with NYC filmmaker Dave Shaerf, will be making a short film in NYC this Saturday, 2/26, to raise funds and awareness for their fellow countrymen struggling in the wake of the New Zealand earthquake. They will be canvassing NYC on Saturday with a video camera in tow, to record your messages of hope, faith, and strength to all New Zealanders – from one city of survivors to another. The day will culminate in a large gathering at the Central Park Ampitheater (The Bandshell) at 1:30pm to record a group message of “Kia Kaha Christchurch!” – or Stay Strong Christchurch!

The immediate goal will be to post the final video on YouTube on Sunday. The larger goal is to raise funds and awareness in a far-reaching message that will inspire others across the globe to do the same. The video will include links to aid organizations, and they are collecting donations for a Stay Strong fund that will go directly to the people of Christchurch. Show your support by recording a video message to Kia Kaha in Central Park!

How does this relate to Vee one might ask. Well, Vee Fitzgerald, who also happens to be the President of the New York Chapter of Women for WineSense and her husband Chef Shehu Fitzgerald lived in New Zealand for 1.5 years. The pair spent about 4 years traveling, working and living in different places before coming back to New York to marry. New Zealand however has left its’ greatest mark on them and their careers. Vee and I sipped a great Sauvignon Blanc from Whitehaven at the Ritz Carlton in lower Manhattan as we chatted about their lives in that country. They both told me enthusiastically that their dream is to own a farm in New Zealand some day.

It was fascinating to me to see how interested they both were in New Zealand, much the way Italy captivates me. While owning that farm may be a longer term goal, Vee and her husband have realized one of their shorter term goals, owning a wine shop in Staten Island. Chef Fitzgerald was raised on Staten Island and the couple wanted to open a different sort of wine shop there, with personal service, their Chef on duty program where a Chef answers customer questions about pairing, hand selected wines, education and free delivery all over the island.

The shop has been open for less than a year so Vee is cautiously optimistic, as any smart business woman should be. Her passion for retail started years ago when she worked for Vintage wine, the shop that sold only New York wines. Vee also worked in sales for two small New Zealand importers working off and on premise. Her strength was off-premise, she said and thus led to her decision.

That was her first job after returning from New Zealand. “The New Zealanders were very nationalistic about their wines and I thought it would be fun to work in a store that promoted our area,” Vee said.
While working, Vee studied to get her Diploma from the Wines & Spirits Education Trust program at the International Wine Center. Vee started her wine career in restaurants where she met her Chef husband. She also told me that Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World book got her started. I feel a lot of kinship with Vee and her love of that book which I think is a must for all beginners and not just beginners in wine. I keep a copy on my desk at work in fact.

Vee is also helping me to become a better social media marketer. She is an avid fan of Twitter and Facebook. “Social media has been fundamental for my business,” she told me, and she reminds me constantly, “it’s a conversation.”

I truly enjoyed my conversation with Vee and the unbelievable scallops with a special spice blend that her husband, Chef Fitzgerald of the Ritz Carlton restaurant, 2 West prepared for us.

I can’t wait until they get that farm in New Zealand but in the meantime, we will continue our conversation on nearer shores, likely with a New Zealand or New York wine in hand.

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Italian Restaurants in NYC: Tarallucci e Vino – A Growing Brand In NYC, Fontanavigna Pallagrello Bianco from Terre del Principe

Tarallucci e Vino is owned by two Italians from Abruzzo who are very well versed in the culinary scene in New York. I have the pleasure of knowing only one of the owners, Luca Di Pietro but not the other, Pepi Di Giacomo. Oddly enough, Luca’s wife went to the same graduate program as I did in Bologna although not at the same time. I met Luca through a mutual friend, Alberto Paderi from Alta Cucina and GD Cucine and that first encounter at the bar at Tarallucci e Vino on 18th Street opened a new world for me. Or better, showed me where to find Italy in New York. Since that day, tutto e finito a Tarallucci e Vino, meaning everything has ended well.

I spend a considerable amount of time at Tarallucci. I teach Italian there to a lovely student once a week. We generally have the whole wheat honey croissant and cappuccino. The staff is lovely and always makes us feel at home.

I also meet people at Tarallucci for a drink and in fact, held a meeting there last week with the New York Chapter of Women for WineSense board members. We stayed briefly but I am sure the restaurant has some new fans.

I have been to the 18th street restaurant, the one on East 10th Street and now even the one on Columbus and 83nd. I’m still missing a trip to the SOHO Alessi shop on Greene Street. Each of these locations has a slightly different vibe but each is rigorously Italian. I can say unequivocally that the espresso and/or cappuccino at Tarallucci is among the best in the city if not the best in the city.

I did a long piece on Espresso bars for an Italian magazine a few years back which you can find here and have basically searched high and low in the city looking for that elusive perfect cup. I must say, I find it every time that I go to Tarallucci. That’s not the only reason to go there though.

I love the croissants in the morning, the quiche at lunch and anything off the dinner menu. The restaurant hired a new chef last year, Riccardo Bilotta who is doing great things. Essentially, I feel at home at Tarallucci and I trust that whatever I order, I will enjoy.

Being as much if not more of a wino than a foodie by trade, I also scrutinize the wine list each visit to see if anything new has been added or removed. One of my favorites is the Gragnano from Cantine Federciane

I always order that when it is on the menu. This last visit though, I tried a new wine for me, a Pallagrello Bianco Fontanavigna from Terre del Principe. The owners of Terre del Principe helped to bring back this indigenous variety in Campania as well as Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Apparently, these plants were in existence pre-Phylloxera time, according to the importer Artisan Wines.

The wine itself was exquisite with apricot and peach notes, lovely acidity and minerality. It was somewhat full bodied and enveloping on the palate. I loved it. I’m trying to stay on the recommended one drink per evening suggestion of our surgeon general but that wine made it quite hard for me. As do many others :).

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Filed under Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Wine Bars, wines

Terra di Seta – An Italian Kosher Winery

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of Terra di Seta, the only 100% Kosher winery in Italy and perhaps in Europe. The choice means that much of the wine produced will be exported because Italy has such a small Jewish population, around 40,000 people.

The winery participated in the 5th annual Kosher Food & Wine Experience at Pier 60. Their wines are now imported by Royal Wine Corp.

It was an interesting blend of cultures and wines as well as much food. I was delighted to see the intrepid Italian Consul General Francesco Maria Talo’ attended the event and spent a considerable amount of time with the owners of this unique winery. I thought that was amazing actually to see an Italian official present at this event.

Back to the wine, Daniele Della Seta and his wife, Maria Pellegrini have owned this winery in the Chianti Classico DOCG region at 1,574 feet above sea level. Together with the winery, they have what seems to be a beautiful Bed and Breakfast or agriturismo. Le Macie. Della Seta comes from an ancient Roman family while Pellegrini is a Toscana DOC, or Tuscan born and bred from the Grosseto area.

They make two wines currently, a Chianti Classico DOCG and a Toscana IGT on 15 hectares.

The Chianti Classico DOCG 2008 is made from sangiovese with a hint of Cabernet sauvignon. It was fresh, fruity and acidic as sangiovese should be. This is their first vintage and I am sure that the future holds much promise for their wines.

According to Della Seta, the winery is “obsessed with hygiene” and they are organically certified in Italy and in Europe. The wine maker is Enrico Paternoster from the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige.

The wines are 100% Kosher but not Mevushal. For those who have no idea what that means, neither did I until recently, it is a pasteurization technique that some Kosher wines undergo but not all of them.

The production of Kosher wines entails a number of things including that the equipment and machinery used to make the wine must be used exclusively for the production of kosher products. From grape crushing to the sealing of the bottles, only Sabbath observant Jews may physically handle the grapes, production equipment and wine. Only certified kosher products (yeast, filtering agents, etc) may be used in processing.

Kosher wines are subject to very stringent filtration procedures and no foreign substance may be used and no artificial coloring or preservatives may be used at all.

It seems more complicated than it is at times but what it does do is often add to the price of the wines. I’m not sure what this Chianti retails for but I am happy to see another Chianti on the market and a good one at that. I rarely buy Kosher wine because I am not observant but I do drink it on passover and like to be able to recommend good kosher wine to friends. Now I have another one to add to my list. Meno o male….Salute!


Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Kosher wine, Memorable Events, wines

On My Way to KFWE 2011 At Pier 60

I’m on my way to the 5th Annual Kosher Food & Wine Event at Pier 60. The event is sold out and I will be working welcoming press but I do hope to taste some of the wines available, specifically those from made in Italy.

I like the tag line they use when talking about the wines, good wines that just happen to be Kosher. Kosher wines certainly get a bad rap and I’m sure it has to do with those made in the early days of New York wine making when they were made using the sweet Concord grape. Much has changed and I’m looking forward to seeing this for myself later today. Earlier this year I went to a Wines of Israel tasting. I enjoyed a number of those wines, especially the ones from Yatir. I’m hoping to add to my limited repertoire and knowedge of the subject. I’m sure it will be an education for many. If you are going, look for me later.

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

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 called Octagon which President Obama drank at the inauguration. It is a blend of Merlot, with percentages of Reserve Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The wines are vinified separately and then blended. They are fermentation in stainless steel tank for 5-7 days, then macerated for 10-20 days. It is then aged 12 to 14 months in barriques of new French oak and then spends six months in the bottle before release. This is their flagship wine.

I actually prefer the Cabernet Franc on its own and the Viognier which I thought was just splendid. I was also lucky enough to dry a dessert wine made from Malvasia on a visit to the winery in October and then at the Italian Embassy in Washington at a Vinitaly event.

Still, it is the Viognier which stole my heart. It is fermented in stainless steel, does not spend any time in wood, and instead goes through extended lees aging. This brings wonderful nutty and toasty notes to this wine which also has lovely fruit and floral aromas and flavors. I had this wine with lobster this summer on Cape Cod and it was perfect.

I’ve visited this winery twice now and highly recommend it as a day trip from Washington, DC or as part of a Virginia Winery tour. I’ve been a Jefferson fan since I was a little kid because of my Dad so this was a special trip for me and a perfect wine for President’s Day.


Filed under Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, USA Wineries, wines

Italian Restaurants in NYC: San Matteo – From Salerno With Love

I discovered a new place for pizza in one of my stomping grounds. My mother, a sculptor and painter, has had a studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 30 years. Our only neighborhood pizzeria was Delizia, a place that I love and which is close to my American heart, which red pepper flakes, oregano and sometimes pepperoni.

Today, however, I found a pizza that appeals to my Italian heart, the real deal, from Salerno. San Matteo is owned by Cirro Casella. Cirro comes to New York naturally and has a long history with the City thanks in part to his uncle, Roberto of Robertos and Trattoria Zero Otto Nove in the Bronx, Arthur Avenue neighborhood.

I tried a Pizza Marinara. Fatto come si deve, as it should be with tomato sauce, olives and anchovies. It was perfect. Light and airy but with just enough crust to be filling, I truly felt for a moment that I was in Italy having a pizza on a Sunday with friends. Pino Daniele was playing in the background and that helped to create the right atmosphere.

While I will always have Delizia in my heart, San Matteo has made a little headway. I need to go back and try their Panuozz which I heard were great. It’s nice to see the neighborhood staying alive despite the construction of the Second Avenue subway. I know I will be back.

San Matteo is moderately priced and the owner has a real love of wines from his region, Campagna. In fact, he told me that he thinks Fiano is the best pairing with Pizza. I will be sure to find out next time.

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Tre Bicchieri Tasting Today

Today is the Tre Bicchieri tasting. Although people are constantly critical of these types of shows or of awards in general, no one can say they don’t give us wine geeks the chance to try a lot of great wine. The show organized by Gambero Rosso gave out over 400 awards of three glasses,their top award along with special awards in the following categories:

Red wine
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ‘04 Biondi Santi

White wine
A.A. Sylvaner R ‘09 Köfererhof

Franciacorta Brut Secolo Novo ’05 Le Marchesine

Sweet wine
Albana di Romagna Passsito AR Ris. ‘06 Fattoria Zerbina

Best value wine
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Sup. ’09 Pievalta

Winery of the year

Up-and-coming winery

Oenologist of the year
Ruben Larentis

Grower of the year
Walter Massa

Award for sustainable viticulture
Sandi Skerk

I’m looking forward to seeing old friend and making new ones, meaning people and wines…

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Filed under Elena Walch, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Travel, Wine Industry, Women in Wine