Monthly Archives: February 2016

Monday Musings: Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed Of Late

I try to read a couple of blog posts each day, along with newspapers in English and Italian. Some days I am able to do it, others not. I always listen to the radio during meals and when I can I watch the PBS Newshour and the Rai evening news. It’s never enough time and I often feel behind but you do the best you can.

A few posts that I read recently though had me thinking about the topics they mention though. One came out today by Charles Scicolone. I love the idea that he and Michele choose to spend their time in Rome rather than Florida or Arizona. I too hope to do that one day in the future. I have been to a number of the restaurants he mentions and know many of the wines well. It really made me miss Rome.

Another post is one by Tom Maresca about Giacomo Tachis. I don’t totally agree with his take on the wines but I understand where he is coming from about them. I don’t drink those Super Tuscans either but not for ideological reasons but rather because I can’t afford them and my tastes run elsewhere. I’ve had many a conversation about whether international grape varieties have a place in traditional regions, such as Tuscany and can see why some winemakers want to experiment whereas other insist on maintaining tradition. I think the area where I feel most strongly about this is on the use of oak and how it influences the wine. In any event, his post got me thinking about these topics.

Jeremy Parzen weighed in on a Wine Spectator article that has created a lot of clamor. I think his post was brave and at times funny. Again, the need for credentials is a topic I think about often. Personally I have sought out as many as I can pass in the time that I have, believing if I am going to be writing and speaking about wine and/or promoting it, I should have the credentials to back that up. My wine education though began purely as a hobby out of my love for the stuff.

In addition to these posts, this weekend I read many articles on the website, I have written a number of articles for that site over the years, not on wine but other topics of interest to me that relate to Italy – politics, culture, art, economics, history, etc. So much to read and to write but so little time….

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Calabria Calls: Roberto Ceraudo


During Italian Wine Week, I had the occasion to try many wines from Southern Italian regions made with indigenous grapes. Among those that I really enjoyed were wines from Roberto Ceraudo from Calabria. I tasted a few of his wines and was particularly fond of the Grisara and the Dattilo, the former made with Pecorello and the latter with Gaglioppo. Roberto Ceraudo started his winery and his children are now following in his footsteps. He is among the first in Calabria to grow organic grapes. The winery is in the province of Crotone and is quite close to the sea.


They make around 70,000 bottles of wine between reds, whites and roses, all of the wines are labeled Val di Neto I.G.T. The family owns 60 hectares, some 20 dedicated to wine production and 38 to olive groves. I happened upon the winery by chance at the tasting and I am glad that I did. I like wines made in Calabria and I like to find gems among the wineries in this region.

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Follow-Fridays: Villa Matilde from Campania


Often I taste wines in on occasion or another, write copious notes and plan my posts about them only to let 12 months go by before I actually end up writing anything, hence the title, follow-up Fridays. When not writing about Women in Wine, I will be dedicating Fridays to following up on posts that are long overdue. I was first introduced to Villa Matilde at a Vinitaly tasting some years ago. I first wrote about them at the beginning of my indigenous grape variety series in 2009. I have met the members of the family during Vinitaly and they are all quite passionate about their wines and the history behind them. Apparently, their father set out to recreate wines that were drunk in antiquity, Falernum, in the Monte Massico area.


In addition to the Falerno Bianco, made from Falanghina and the Falerno Rosso, made from Aglianico and Piedirosso, they make a host of really interesting, intense and opulent wines that I thoroughly enjoyed. The wine in the picture Cecubo is made from 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso and is made without using sulfites. I also tried their Vigna Camarato 2007 pictured below, also a blend.

Vigna Camarato

It was a beautiful and elegant wine with spice and fine tannins on the palate. I remember drinking it in the middle of Vinitaly and wishing I could be tasting it at dinner rather than at a stand. Maybe this year. If you are going to Vinitaly, definitely stop by their stand, the wines are well worth the wait to try to get near the tables.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Kerner

italy 600

Kerner is a grape that was created in Germany in 1969 by crossing Schiava Grossa or Trollinger with Riesling. It came to Italy early on and has been considered an Italian national varietal since 1981.  It is often made into a mono-varietal wine and at times is blended with other varieties. It is similar to Riesling but has lower acidity and higher alcohol, generally speaking. It is the only variety with a “K” that I will be writing about. I think the rest of this year will see posts on varieties starting with the letters L and M. If I finish the M varieties I will consider that a success. Anyway, back to Kerner. Lucky for me I have had a couple of New York City based occasions in which to taste Kerner – Tre Bicchieri and the Alto Adige tastings over the years. Fred Plotkin, an Italy and opera expert, among other things, once told me that he only tasted one variety per tasting or some small number like that. I often try to follow his lead. At Tre Bicchieri of course that was not possible but I did get to taste a great Kerner from Abbazia di Novacella from Alto Adige.

The Augustinian Canons Regular monastery is an active monastery, founded more than 850 years ago. Still a working church, it supports itself “through the cultivation and sales of agricultural products such as culinary herbs and fruit. In addition the wines from the Novacella/Neustift vineyards and monastery winery are famous throughout the world and have scooped the most coveted national and international awards,” according to their website.The soils are said to be rich in minerals which together with the cool climate and elevation lead to the cultivation of white wines with good acidity. Thanks to their micro-climate, they also have a long growing season. I loved the Kerner that I tasted wich was the Valle Isarco Kerner Praepositus 2014. I found it had great acidity, minerality and texture on the palate. I also loved their Moscato Rosa but that’s for a different day. Other wineries that maker Kerner that I enjoy are Castelfeder, Kaltern Caldaro, Nals Margreid, and Cantina Valle Isarco – all tasted at last year’s Alto Adige event.

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Literary Greats – Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

Some people read the wedding pages or style section but I read the obituaries on a pretty regular basis. Actually it’s a family habit and we often comment to each other about the lives that people have lived. I’m not sure when I started reading them so assiduously but it’s been a long time. This past week saw the passing of two literary greats, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. I will never forget either of the books for which they are both so famous, To Kill a Mocking Bird and In the Name of The Rose. Both books were also made into wonderful movies. The latter was a movie I remember watching in Dijon during my junior year abroad. It really stuck with me for many years. That now seems like a very long time ago and the beginning of my formal wine study. Living in Burgundy at 20 gave me a wonderful opportunity to drink fantastic wine early on. I also was able to travel throughout France. One part of that life  that I always remember was starting a meal with a Kir or a Kir Royal.  I love Kir Royal with Creme de Cassis and Champagne or just a Kir with Cassis and Aligote’. I have also seen recipes using Chambord. Since I have no pictures of Cassis, although I did visit and do remember the cliffs called Falaises there, I do have one from Chambord.Chambord

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Wines from the Valtellina: Nino Negri Sfursat 5 Stelle 2011

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Last week’s Italian extravaganza of wines included some wines from the Valtellina in Lombardy, particularly this one from Nino Negri. I got about 10 text messages from a friend who lives in the Valtellina last week asking me if I had seen that Eric Asimov had finally taken note of Valtellina. Yes I had read the article. Funny that even in Sondrio, what the New York Times writes about, is what they have their minds on. That said, I actually had first visited the Valtellina with the person who texted me over 15 years ago. His family has a house there and we went to visit and tasted wines along the way. I loved the wines from Sandro Fay I remember and a few others. One of the famous names forever from that region though is Nino Negri. Last week I just had the pleasure of tasting his Sfursat 5 Stelle from 2011 which won a “Tre Bicchieri” award. This 100% Nebbiolo based wine is made only in select years. The grapes are dried for three months and the wine ages for 18 months in new French oak barriques and then a further six months in the bottle. The wines are made by winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the winery since the 1970s. I find that Sfursat, like Amarone, is an acquired taste. My friend who was tasting with me was quite surprised at this version of Nebbiolo which locally is called Chiavennasca. Apparently, according to their website, Nino Negri was the first winery to produce a Sfursat also called a Sforzato. It was a big, rich, complex and layered wine with red fruit, pencil shavings, tobacco and spice notes. It also had great acidity. Infact the acidity, in my view, due to the elevation of the vineyards, enables these concentrated wines to be imbibed with slightly lighter food than what an Amarone requires. Worth learning to pronounce, try wines from the Valtellina, Sfursat and others, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Anteprime Toscane

Palazzo Strozzi

This past weekend was the start of the Anteprime Toscane when different top Tuscan denominations show their new vintages. I got to go to a number of these events some years ago and it was truly an experience. Sadly this year that was not in the cards but perhaps next year I will be back again.

Here are my posts on the subject from a few years ago: Vino Nobile and Brunello di Montalcino tastings.

Nice memories.

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