Monthly Archives: July 2015

Thinking About Felines


I don’t have the desire to write on my blog today but rather paying homage to felines, those close by, like my darling Pudding and those far away. Like many others, albeit not everyone, I am repulsed by the story of the murder of Cecil, a stately lion and the fate of his 12 cubs. Now that I have a small child, I feel all of this more acutely. Will there be no lions or elephants for him to see and dream of? I would be hard pressed to read him all of the books we have on animals, thinking that each one may soon be only visible at the zoo.

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Wine of the Week: Macchia Sacra IGT from Cantina Castello di Torre in Pietra

Macchia Sacra

Today’s wine of the week is Macchia Sacra IGT from Cantina Castello di Torre in Pietra from Lazio. I tried this wine while searching the halls of Vinitaly for a client that I couldn’t locate and I stayed a while to chat with the owners. I’m a fan of wines from Lazio, albeit they aren’t very well known or available in the US market. This wine is made from a blend of two indigenous varieties – Malvasia Puntinata and Fiano. It had a lot of sapidity, minerality and lovely floral aromas from the Malvasia – a perfect summer wine.

This winery has 50 hectares of vines on a very large property of 150 hectares. The winery follows organic principals for growing their grapes and doesn’t use pesticides of any kind. The vines are located on sloping hills facing South and West. The soil is a mix of fossils and sandy where the white grapes are grown. There is more clay in the soil where the red varieties are placed. The planting density is about 5000 plants per hectare. The area is favored as well by breezes which keep the grapes healthy and clean.

The winery can also count on antique cellars for aging of its wines, carved out of the Tufa stone and used in the 1500s as well. They ferment their whites in stainless steel and concrete and wood for aging some of the reds.

Reading the literature they gave me, I discovered that the winery was bought by Luigi Albertini, the owner of the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera in 1926 and that in the past it belonged to the family of Pope Sisto V. Currently Filippo Antonelli and Lorenzo Majnoni own the winery and are responsible for its wine production. Now I understand why Antonelli’s fantastic passito was also being offered at the same stand…

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Groppello di Mocasina Nero e Groppello Gentile Nero from Veneto and Lombardia

Lake Garda

This week’s indigenous grape variety hails mostly from Lombardy and the Veneto but is also found in a few areas in Trentino. It’s principal area however is around Lake Garda where it is a major component in Garda Classico DOC wines. It is often made into a rosato as well, locally called Chiaretto.

As a grape variety, Groppello, is hearty without being too vigorous and grows best on low hills. It is challenged in soils that have a deficiency in potassium and can at times present a sensibility to grey rot and oidium or powdery mildew.

There is also a Groppello that comes from the Trentino but that is a different grape variety. A well known producer of Groppello in this area is De Zinis

There is a Consorzio of these wines called Consorzio Valtenesi. Numerous DOC wines are produced with Groppello as the star variety including Valtenesi DOC (Groppello min 50% of the blend), Valtenesi Chiaretto DOC ( Groppello min 50% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso Superiore (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Chiaretto (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Groppello and Groppello Riserva (Groppello 100%), Garda Classico DOC Novello (Groppello min 30% of the blend). Many of these wines do not arrive in the United States which is a shame. They are easy to drink and lovely with food. Just like their friends nearby on Lake Garda, much of this wine is consumed in situ…

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Lo Triolet’s Pinot Gris From Valle d’Aosta

Pinot Gris from Triolet

Lo Triolet is a winery from the Valle d’Aosta that I discovered on my last trip to Vinitaly thanks to some friends from the Italian Sommelier Association. I like tasting with others from this group because their approach is very different from the one used in either the US or the UK. Often, they also know many smaller producers from various regions that I wouldn’t have access to from my home in New York City.

Lo Triolet is a perfect example of this. A winery from a town in the Valle d’Aosta called Introd, it is owned by Marco Martin. Martin decided to plant Pinot Gris at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. From the first vines he planted additional ones and now has 5 hectares planted from 600 to 900 meters above sea level. The soil is sandy, interestingly enough and is what is known as a moraine or the remains of an ancient glacier. Thanks to this past the soil has many minerals. The wines that he produces show this particular terroir and have significant sapidity and minerality. Martin believes in integrated pest management and uses organic materials for fertilizer.

The Pinot Gris was the stand out for me of the wines that I tried although his Muscat was also interesting. He also produces a host of wines made from indigenous varietals such as Fumin and Nus.

Muscat Petit Grain

I am a fan of the Valle d’Aosta and the wines they produce. A beautiful place to go skiing, I am sure it is also a lovely place to visit in the summer although I have never had the pleasure. Maybe someday…

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Sweet Sundays: Abafado from Quinta da Alorna – Tejo, Portugal

Would love to have a bottle of this on hand after a very busy day, week, month and year.


Abafado 5 Years

In October of last year I had the opportunity to visit the Quinta da Alorna in the Tejo region of Portugal. I had never visited this area or its wineries so it was all new and thrilling. The Quinta da Alorna winery where we were treated to an exquisite lunch was a step back into history. Everything in the beautiful villa spoke of another age. Additionally, it was surrounded by an English garden yet the foods and wines couldn’t have been more Portuguese. Owned for five generations by the Lopo de Carvalho family, Quinta da Alorna is quite an experience. I will write a longer piece with photos on the winery but today’s entry is about their Abafado, a sweet wine made from the white grape Fernao Pires (also known as Maria Gomes).

This aromatic white grape variety is planted extensively throughout Portugal. It can be made into various wines…

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Winery of the Week: Montori from Abruzzo


I was lucky enough to taste the wines from this winery during Vinitaly in March of this year. I have a dear friend from Montepulciano in Tuscany and she is always angered that people confuse Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with the town and the wine from that town in Tuscany so I always avoid going into that pavilion. This year though, it was in a different area and I was able to taste without rocking the boat. All kidding aside, I have not spent as much time as I should trying this wines.


Montori was an interesting and traditional winery to discover by chance. I tried a number of their Fonte Cupa wines both the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC. I also tried their Passerina 2014 from the Colli Aprutini IGT 2013 which had great acidity. This group of wines are created only in selected years when the harvest is as one would hope and the quality of the grapes such that the wines they create are the top of the line.


I also tried the Riserva of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG from 2007. I was impressed with the wines and the potential of these low key grapes – Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Passerina to make not just friendly wines but also ones with more depth.


The tasting made me think I need to reconsider these grape varieties and spend more time in Abruzzo, perhaps dragging my friend along for the ride.

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Pignoletto DOC, Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto DOCG – Emilia Romagna

emilia romagna

Every year when I go to Vinitaly in April, I see old clients, always look and meet new clients and often try to attend various conferences and spend time trying wines I know little about. This year in particular it was a very crowded trip, also because it was shorter than usual for me.

One conference I wanted to attend but missed was about the new denominations in Emilia Romagna for Pignoletto and the Colli Bolognesi. I very must like the grape, love the region and am fond of both the PR team that was hosting the event as well as the speaker from Slow Wine so it seemed that it would be a great addition to my trip. Pignoletto is also called Grechetto Gentile but has always been called Pignoletto in this region. Again, as happens every year, the best laid plans…go awry. The newly formed consortium counts 3000 heactares of vines and 8,000 growers.

For those who don’t know this grape variety, hurry up and try to find a forward looking wine bar or restaurant that offers it by the glass. It is a refreshing white that pairs perfectly with charcuterie and cheese for which Emilia Romagna is famous as well as their incredible pastas. Pignoletto has been cultivated in this region for centuries, some say even as far back as Etruscan times. Some nine million bottles of Pignoletto are produced every year.

Pignoletto is a versatile grape that is made into many different styles from dry to sweet as well as sparkling. I am partial to the dry version and drinking it when it is young, floral and fruity. I’m craving some right now in fact as dinner approaches.

I lived in Bologna in graduate school so I am quite familiar with the region and am a big fan of the area and the people and their culinary productions.

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