Monthly Archives: February 2017

Happy Mardi Gras: New Orleans on My Mind

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This sandwich is famous in New Orleans, the Muffaletta. This is one of the lovely things I think about when I go to New Orleans. That together with great coffee, beignets, river boats, beads and of course, Mardi Gras.

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I’ve been to New Orleans four times. Each time I have had a unique experience. Very exciting city for so many reasons, it remains close to my heart.

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Wines of Lombardy: Valcalepio – Bergamo

This summer I will be hosting a seminar on the Wines of Lombardy at the Society of Wine Educators conference in Portland, Oregon. I’m very excited to speak about this region that is so close to my heart after having spent 10 years there. I think people will be surprised by many of the varieties that they taste. I certainly hope so.

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Baptistery Bergamo Alta

As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to be writing about wines from Lombardy all week. One friend was perplexed that I said I didn’t know the wines of Lombardy that well. What I meant and was perhaps misunderstood is that I don’t know all of the wines of Lombardy as well as I might like to, although some I know quite well and have worked with in the past, visited the regions or am currently working with as we speak.

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Today I want to mention an area of Lombardy that I love, Bergamo and its wines from the Valcalepio, still quite unknown in the US but also in many parts of Italy. The Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio was founded in 1977 by 22 members. Today, the consortium has 85 members, or about 98% of the producers of Valcalepio. The area is in the province of Bergamo and has two main…

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Monday Musings: Wine Writing In the Age of Politics

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As I think about all the news this Monday morning, a question keeps coming to mind. How important is writing about wine at this moment when so much of the world is in turmoil. I don’t have a fully formed answer yet and I am wondering what other bloggers/journalists/critics think at this point in time. Writing an article on deadline if you write for a major or minor publication is one thing but what about the daily effort it takes to keep posting on a blog. I am interested to know what others think. This is not the only time I have thought of this issue. When a tragedy happens to someone you know and love or when you get really sick or overwhelmed with life’s tasks, does your wine writing, that not done for money, take a back seat? Mine does at times and at other times I find it a refuge from the onslaught of bad news. Witness I said bad not fake news.

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Often my refuge is traveling in my mind through a glass of wine and remembering the pleasure of where I drank it or thinking about where it was produced. I guess the idea is that perhaps others who may read it can also take a small trip with me and find a moment of refuge from the daily grind.
I would be curious if others feel the same way and what they think. I know when I first moved back to the US and first started this blog, it was a way of staying connected to Italy and to all that I love about that country. Through the years, this May it will be my ninth year of posting, it has kept me very close to Italy and has, admittedly, helped my business grow but that was not the reason for starting it but a happy by-product.

Over these years, it has not always been easy to keep going especially in times like these when one wonders if maybe there are bigger fish to tackle. We shall see as the next four years unfold.

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Winery of the Week: Cos From Sicily

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I had the opportunity to taste through the Cos wines last month at the Domaine Select tasting. One was better then the next. I loved all of them but today will just mention the ones in the picture. My favorite was their Pithos Rosso DOC. Made from a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, it purred at me with waves of flavor and depth. I loved its unique cherry flavors and its enveloping floral aromas and nuances. It was pure and perfectly clean. Reading through the website, I learned why. They pay enormous attention to every detail in their wine making and are biodynamic and organic. They also vinify and age their wines in amphora. I love this 30 year history of making wines in this way, very unique for Sicily and at the time, the only one doing so. That takes guts and drive.

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The winery was founded by three friends in 1980: Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano and Giusto Occhipinti. The acronym of their last names is where the name for the winery – COS – comes from.
Giambattista Cilia’s father Giuseppe Cilia gave them an old winery and the nearby vineyard of bush trained vines, a total of less than 4 hectares in the town of Bastonaca. The winery follows the principles of biodynamic faming in order to help the vines find and maintain a balance with nature in order to be able to express their true character and that of their terroir. For vinification, they decided to use terracotta vases that left no traces or aromas on the wine but were completely neutral vessels. In 2000, Pithos was created, a Cerasuolo di Vittoria that ferments and ages in amphora. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the only Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine in Sicily thus far.

I also loved the shape of their bottles. I wondered how it works on the shelves in wineshops but was told it isn’t a problem. I have never visited this part of Sicily but have a dear friend from Ragusa. Growing up, my neighbor who used to make wine with my father in our basement was also from Ragusa. I often credit them for getting me started in the wine industry. I sense a pattern here. Perhaps it is time for a trip to this part of Sicily.

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Wine of the Week: Caiarossa Pergolaia (Tuscany)

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This week’s wine of the week is from a wine called Caiarossa. I first discovered this winery last year at Vinitaly. I was attracted to their labels with the enigmatic bust on them and the esoteric names of their wines.

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The winery is owned by a Frenchman and the grapes grown are mostly international or French varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, etc. He also grows Sangiovese but most of his wines are blends. Usually this would put me off but I persevered and am glad I did.

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I very much enjoyed all of the wines I tried and the gentle hand of the winemaker was pretty consistent throughout the wines. The goal of the owner, Eric Albada Jelgersma who also runs two chateaux in France, Chateau Giscours and Chateau du Tertre is to express the particular terroir of the vineyards. The vineyards at Caiarossa have red soils and “ghiaia” or small stones. They are certified organic and biodynamic. I tasted a couple of the wines again at the Slow Wine event in February. She wasn’t a fan but I found them to be to my liking much as I had a year earlier. I found the blend in Pergolaia, Sangiovese with a small percent of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, engaging and juicy both on the nose and palate with rich red fruits, tertiary earth notes and foral undertones. I thought it had a long finish and would work beautifully with a light pasta or a chicken dish.

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I think this is a winery to watch. Not inexpensive, I thought the wines were worth it.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia del Lazio

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This week’s grape variety is called Malvasia del Lazio. It as you can imagine, grows primarily in the southern Italian region of Lazio, of which Rome is the capital. It is sometimes also referred to as Malvasia puntinata because of the small dots on the grape. Usually this grape is blended with other varieties, Trebbiano and other Malvasia varieties. It brings color, distinct aromatics, and finesse to the blend. It has a lot of sapidity, minerality and lovely floral aromas. It can be seen in the following DOC wines: Bianco Capena, Cerveteri, Colli Albani, Frascati, Marino and Montecompatri-Colonna. I once wrote a post about Malvasia Puntinata which you can read here.

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Lazio is truly a forgotten region in my view in terms of their viticultural offerings. I have written often about their wines because it is a personal passion and I have dear friends in Rome so I get to visit frequently and am introduced to new producers through these friends. It’s hard to find wines from Lazio in the states but it is possible. Here are some that are available stateside.

I have tried a number of wines made with this particular Malvasia and one I really enjoyed was the Pallavicini dessert wine called Stillato, made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio. It is simply a symphony in your mouth with notes of apricot, tropical fruits, honey and vanilla. Approximately 25% of the wine is partially fermented in barriques made from Acacia wood which gives it a honeyed complexity on the palate. The Pallavicini make a very wide range of white and red wines. A fascinating family history goes along with that storied Roman name and great wines.

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Winery of the Week: Cusumano from Sicily

I just saw Diego last week and had the opportunity to try Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2014 that won the Tre Bicchieri Award from Gambero Rosso. Made from Carricante grown at 600 above sea level, it had great acidity and minerality. It was fresh and engaging with great white fruit aromas and flavors and floral hints as well on the attack. It was full bodied and enveloping and to me it sang of Sicily and on the frigid day of the event last week, it really made me long for some Sicilian warmth.

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Cusumano

I seem to be fixated on Sicily this summer and with good reason. A beautiful part Italy, I have spent a bit of time there during past summers and look forward to my next viaggio. When I can’t travel physically, I can always travel thanks to the wines I drink and write about. This post is no different. Today’s winery of the week is Sicilian, Cusumano. I met Diego in 2010 during Vinitaly when I was doing some translation work for a wine magazine meeting with numerous producers. I remember his warm and friendly smile and I have seen him at numerous tastings throughout the years.

Thanks to Tony Didio, I finally had the good fortune to sit down with Diego and discuss his family winery a bit more in depth and to sample different wines although the one in the picture above remains a favorite from this winery…

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