Monthly Archives: June 2011

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Bonarda Who Are You?

Bonarda is one of those Italian varieties that you assume you know well, have had, feel somewhat benign towards but yet wouldn’t go out of your way to try it again. Why is that I asked myself? First of all, because we have been confusing Bonarda from Piedmont with many other grapes and I know I am not alone in this.

People often mistake Croatina for Bonarda. Croatina is from the Oltrepo’ Pavese in Lombardy not from Piedmont. Then there’s Uva Rara which is often called Bonarda but is not the same varietal and is also from the Oltrepo’ not Piedmont. Lastly, all that Bonarda grown in Argentina and California is actually not related to the one from Piedmont but is its’ own grape variety, Charbono.

Therefore, who is the real Bonarda? A grape I have seldom met on its’ own. Bonarda, in fact, is usually used as a blending grape in the great wine of Gattinara DOCG in Piedmont to soften Nebbiolo. It also has its own DOC but you rarely see it in the States. In fact, I couldn’t find one Bonarda listed from Italy.

Most Bonarda has been grubbed up in Piedmont. When you do taste Bonarda, you will see that it is a bit sweet and soft and brings lots of color to a wine. This makes it a good date for Nebbiolo. The most well-known Gattinara producer, Travaglini, doesn’t use Bonarda in their DOCG wines but some producers do use it. By law, they can add up to 10% of Bonarda and Vespolina. This miscast grape may still not be at the front of your minds but we should at least get its’ name right. I know I hate when people call me Susan or Suzanne why shouldn’t the real Bonarda get its day in the sun too:).

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Bottega Falai – Tuscan Chef Iacopo Falai Expands Empire

I’ve just been in the mood for Tuscany lately, what can I say. I was there just two short weeks ago having dinner with friends I have known for 20 years. I miss those carefree Tuscan days and my friends but lucky I can get good Tuscan fair right here in New York thanks to Iacopo Falai who made his name as a pasty chef in New York and is certainly remaking himself into a serial entrepreneur in the food industry. His latest venture, Bottega Falai, is doing just as well as all of his other locations.

The Bottega operates from 7 A.M. – 10 P.M. and sells a number of items to take out. There are a few tables to sit and have a coffee and a pastry but the main thrust of the place is that of a caffe. In the Bottega, one can buy all the fresh ingredients used to make delicious dinners at the restaurant next-door, Caffe Falai. The location on Lafayette was just recently expanded. Of course, using the same ingredients doesn’t guarantee that you food will be as good as Falai’s but one can always hope.

One can find prestigious Italian olive oils, teas, pastas, mineral waters, seasoning, and some prepared foods as well as a host of breads and pastry made daily.

To read more about the bottega, check out my article on Alta Cucina Society’s website.

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Filed under Italian Delicacies, Italian recipes, Italian Restaurants, italy, Restaurants

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Bonamico From Pisa

It’s Thursday and that means indigenous varieties over here at Avvinare. The latest grape that I’ve learned about is called Bonamico nero. It hails from Tuscany, specifically from the area around Pisa. It tends to be cultivated in the plains and lower hills. It is a blending grape that is quite vigorous but has little color.

The leaning tower of Pisa is undoubtedly one of the great sites. Yes, it is touristy but it’s also incredibly beautiful. Pisa is in fact, a very lovely city that is often overlooked except for this building.

The entire complex around the Duomo, the Campanile and the Camposanto is magical in my view. You can also see the complex from the highway which always amazes me.

I love the altar inside the Duomo that was created by Andrea Pisano.

Sculpture is one of my great loves thanks to early teachings and learning with my mother who is a sculptor. Something about the Pisano carvings is just so miraculous. The last time I visited Pisa some years ago, I didn’t stop to drink or eat anything but the Colli Pisani are making some interesting wines.

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Filed under Art, Italian Art, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Tuscany

Tuscany Still Has A Hold On Me Like No Other

I guess it’s actually true that your first love can never really be replaced…In this case though, I’m talking about a city and a region. Last week, I was in Florence for all of 9 hours, enough to remind me of why I moved there and never left Italy for 15 years. Our love affair began over 20 years ago but it was June 1991 that it really took shape, when I moved to Via Vellutini, 5.

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So much has happened since then in life and in love, in the world and in work but I still feel like a kid when I get to Florence. It truly makes my heart soar and I think it will be that way forever. At least I hope so. I know it was last Thursday night when I arrived at 2030 at Campo di Marte, was picked up by a dear old friend of 20 years and whisked away to dinner at home with a group of dear old friends that I first met in July 1991.

That year I was studying gold leafing (a long story) at Palazzo Spinelli after having attended NYU Law School and deciding that my destiny wasn’t in the law but in the arts. Naturally, Firenze appealed to me in all ways. My gold leafing didn’t last long (I went to work for a lawyer) but my passion for Florence and my neighborhood did. I lived in the Oltr’arno on Via Romana for many years. At the time, I was lucky enough to see famed works of art on a daily basis in my local churches and museums, go vegetable shopping in Santo Spirito and gaze at the Arno whenever I liked. Last week, I was staying in a nice hotel near the train station and I opened my window to this view.

Brunelleschi’s dome, the church of San Lorenzo filled with Michelangelo’s sculpture and Giotto’s campanile were actually too much for me. I refused to go to sleep and stayed up to gaze at the views.

My evening was made even sweeter by a lovely bottle of wine I was drinking with my friends made by the Marchesi Ginori Lisci family. I used to work with their New York importer so I know this wine very well. It felt like visiting with old friends too.

Friday is the Saint’s Day of San Giovanni, the patron saint of Florence. It’s a great day to be in the city and see Calcio Storico.It’s also the day to make Nocino, a walnut liqueur. I wrote about this some years ago and re-reading my piece, I feel the same way today.

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Filed under Friends/Family, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Travel, Tuscany

On The Road Again: Verona, Vulcania 2011, Soave

I’m on the road again, having left my Milan friends, clients and engagements. I’m now in the Veneto on my way to meet a producer and I attended the third edition of Vulcania Soave. The event lasts for two days with discussions about the impact that volcanic soil has on the grapes that grow in it and the wines that are produced. The day also will have a tour of the hills around Soave and discussions about the volcanic grape producing areas in Italy: Etna, Monti Lessini, Vesuvio and them moving on to other volcanic areas in the world: Israel (Golan Heights), Galizia (Rias Baixas), California (Napa), and Capoverde (Fogo).

I’ve wanted to attend this event since I first heard about it one year ago. Good things do come to those that wait it appears :).

In the meantime, while in the Veneto I have been availing myself of lovely opportunities such as sitting in Piazza delle Erbe drinking uno “Spritz”.

I had my first Spritz this trip at my favorite bar in Milan, Luca & Andrea, and I must say I do see why so many people drink this lovely cocktail. Ha il suo perche’….

Three year’s ago at Vinitaly, I had dinner in an amazing historic restaurant in this building called Ristorante Mazzei.

It was one of those meals I will never forget both for the food and the company. Verona has always been a city that I love. I’ve seen a few operas in the Arena – Aida, Carmen and Rigoletto as well as a great concert by Sting years ago. This past year I have spent more time in Verona thanks to work I do for Vinitaly.

I have come to appreciate the city and its people more and more on every trip. My heart soars every time I cross the Adige river and see these views. I’m sure you can understand why.

Buona notte.

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Weddings, Friends & Nostalgia

I haven’t written in a long while it seems but I was working very hard before going on a 10 day trip to Il Bel Paese. I’m staying with friends at the moment near my second home, Milan. My dear friend Silvia got married yesterday in Bobbio, a beautiful little town near Piacenza to a lovely man named Michele. As luck would have it, while it was hailing in Milan, the sun was shining over their beautiful church in Bobbio.

I’m a bit overcome with emotions at seeing my friend so happy and about 120 people I know well from Milan. La nostalgia sta salendo…Meaning, I’m getting very nostalgic for this country and that life that I loved so well.

Oddly enough, the last weekend in New York before my trip, I saw a movie set in Bobbio called Le Sorelle Mai by Marco Bellocchio. It was fascinating as only a European film can be, small and intimate about families and their intricate balancing act.

Emilia-Romagna has been at the front of my mind for weeks now. In addition to this wonderful event in Bobbio (Emilia-Romagna), I just saw a group of friends from my master’s program at SAIS in Bologna and went to an event in New York for alumni from the school.

Additionally, I just worked on a great project for the University of Bologna Alma Graduate School, a new MBA in Food and Wine. For more information on the program and the 10 scholarships being offered by Ferrarelle, read this article from I-Italy.

At the wedding, we had traditional wines from the Colli Piacentini – Ortrugo, Gutturnio e Malvasia. As a fan of indigenous grapes, I was happy to drink light hearted wines with local fare. Emilia-Romagna is very well known for its salumi which pair perfectly with both Ortrugo and Gutturnio, although the first is a white wine and the second a red. I’ve had still and frizzante Gutturnio throughout the years and have voted for the still each time.

In sum, I think I may need to make a stop over in Bologna before heading towards Tuscany later this week, after my brief trip to the Veneto. It’s nice to be back and see so many smiling faces, especially these three.

Weddings & Friends

My dear friends, Anne Caterine and Stefano at their wedding a few years ago who are wonderful friends, perfect hosts and amazing cooks and their little jewel, Matilde, one of my favorite little girls.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: La Festa della Repubblica & “UNA”

Today is the “Festa della Repubblica” or Italy’s national holiday celebrating the creation of the Italian republic. This year is a special anniversary year, it is the 150th anniversary of the republic’s birth. All year long, the 150th anniversary has been celebrated in a variety of ways.

In fact, Eataly owner and entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti is celebrating by arriving on his sailboat in New York after a trans-Atlantic crossing with world class sailor Giovanni Soldini. The ship docked earlier today at the Chelsea piers. The initiative was more than just an Atlantic crossing with friends. The voyage called the “Seven Moves for Italy” also had a political bent. I wrote about the trip during Vinitaly 2011.

Veronafiere and Vinitaly celebrated the 150th anniversary by creating special bottles of wine that can be seen in the picture above. Ettore Riello, the President of Veronafiere, decided to create two bottles – one red and one white- with 20 indigenous Italian varieties each. He got the idea after speaking with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano last year at Vinitaly. The two bottles were beautifully made with a very long history and many significant references both in terms of the font used on the label – Bodoni, the creation of the bottle by a famous designer – Aldo Cibic and the packaging of the entire project.

Most exciting for me though is the blend. To make the “White wine of Italy,” a representative selection of wines made from autochthonous varieties harvested in 2009 were used. None of the wines were aged in oak.

To make the “Red Wine of Italy,” wines that were produced during the years 2005 to 2009, some of which were aged in wood were used.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines during a celebratory luncheon in March when President Giorgio Napolitano was in town. Riello and Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veroanfiere, presented Napolitano with the first bottles of the wines. The wines are given out to Ambassadors and dignitaries from around the world. Only 3400 cases of two bottles have been made.

The luncheon was held to celebrate the President’s trip to New York, the 150th anniversary of Italy, and the Italian and Italian-American community. The wine were served at a small apertivo before the lunch. I was serving them so I got to taste them. It was a moment that made me very proud and I was of course, wearing my distintivo or my pin from AIS

The wines were surprisingly good. The white wine was very minerally and absolutely ready to drink. It could also be kept for a few years thanks to great acidity. The red was not yet ready to drink but was also very pleasing.

The white is a blend of Priè blanc (Valle d’Aosta), Cortese (Piedmont)
Vermentino (Liguria), Trebbiano di Lugana (Lombardia), Garganega (Veneto),
Weissburgunder (Trentino-Alto Adige),Friulano (Friuli Venezia Giulia),
Pignoletto (Emilia Romagna), Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany),
Grechetto (Umbria),Malvasia (Lazio), Verdicchio (Le Marche), Trebbiano (Abruzzo),
Falanghina (Molise),Fiano (Campania), Fiano (Apulia),Greco (Basilicata)
Greco bianco (Calabria), Grillo (Sicily), and Vermentino (Sardinia).

The red is a blend of Petit rouge (Valle d’Aosta),Barbera (Piedmont),
Rossese di Dolceacqua (Liguria),Croatina (Lombardia),
Raboso (Veneto),Teroldego (Trentino-Alto Adige), Refosco dal peduncolo rosso (Friuli Venezia Giulia), Sangiovese (Emilia Romagna),
Sangiovese (Tuscany),Sagrantino (Umbria),Cesanese di Affile (Lazio),
Lacrima (Le Marche),Montepulciano (Abruzzo),
Tintilia (Molise),Negroamaro (Apulia),Aglianico (Campania),
Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata),Gaglioppo (Calabria),
Nero d’Avola (Sicily),and Carignano (Sardinia).

The “UNA” bottles come with a beautiful little book with citations by many famed Italians and the national anthem at the end. My favorite quote is “L’Italia e fatto,tutto e’ a posto,” Camillo Benso conte de Cavour.

Auguri!

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