. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alcohol is rising!!! It is just because of the climate?


I have, in the window of my store, some bottles from different vintages of Ridge Montebello. I call the window my cemetery, because it is where the bottles I've killed find their final repose. The Montebello is fantastic wine - I'm a big fan of it, and I drink it whenever I have excuse to do so. And then sometimes when I don't.
A few days ago Matt was browsing through the graveyard, perusing the evidence of exploits past. For those that don't know Matt, he is a young but skilled connoisseur that helps me in the store and has edited many of the posts on this blog for me, including this one. While he was browsing the Montebello corpses, he noticed a big difference in the wine's alcohol content, lighter in older bottles and higher on more recent vintages. In 1977, for instance, the percentage by volume was 11.7, and 12.9% in 1988. It climbed to 13% in 1999 and 13.2% in 2003. He mentioned global warming as explanation for the constant alcohol escalation, which does play a big part, in light of the direct proportion between sugar and alcohol. In fact, through the fermentation process the sugars are transformed directly into alcohol with the help of enzymes contained in the yeast. But is it just that... or there is more?
I remembered a conversation I had with a winemaker a while ago, regarding the help that science has contributed with grape clone selection, making more information available to agronomists, in order to select the best clones for the area of production. This information variably increases the quality and the health of the grapes. A big breakthrough happened along these lines in Montalcino, where it has been discovered that Sangiovese Grosso wasn't the best clone for Montalcino conditions and soils. In the past 30 years, the weather has gotten warmer but the grapes got healthier, the grains got smaller, and the vines got older, losing some vigor but gaining concentration and potency. Concentration of the grape from water distress coupled with better and older vines result in a higher content of polyphenols, which is a good thing for a wine. It also results in higher sugars and lower acidity levels which is not so good (distressingly high alcohol levels, and wines with shorter aging potential). Today I think we are in a sweet spot where the climate is more temperate. In Piedmont, for instance, we had a stretch of 6 good to excellent vintages from 1996 and 2001. The level of technology gave the winemakers more information than ever, including the latest creation of the grape's genome map. If this is like drinking a wine at its peak, let's hope we are still far from descending.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Buon Natale


Monday, December 17, 2007

Omaggio a Valentino Migliorini


Valentino, owner of Rocche dei Manzoni, passed away last Thursday leaving a hole in the Langhe. Modern and passionate Barolista will be missed by all the Nebbiolo lovers.
Buon Riposo

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lost Flavors

Sometimes a normal, unassuming evening can turn into a time warp experience: it happened to me on Saturday night.
First I have to provide you with an introduction to my first experience with Luciano Madii aka Il Frasca. I met him over ten years ago in Montevarchi with my brother in law, amidst our self-proclaimed crusade to the Prada outlet. Our journey fulfilled, we unassumingly asked the Carabinieri at the autostrada tollbooth where we could eat a good lunch before the outlet opened. The two of them, almost in unison said "Il Frasca. Make a right, then a left after the bridge and then follow the signs." That is exactly how we unassumingly got to "Il Frasca sull'Ambra."
The restaurant was filled with Prada managers and designers (the factory is few minutes away from the restaurant) and every table was taken, so we waited unassumingly by the bar.
Meanwhile another Prada manager who looked very hurried stepped in after us, hoping for a table. I told Frasca that we were not in hurry, and that we had to wait for the outlet to open anyway, so we could wait for the next one if he wanted to give it to the gentleman after us. That is how we unassumingly became friends, and we spent the whole day with him, only to be invited for dinner at his other restaurant "La Valle dell'Inferno".
A word about the man himself - Il Frasca is an excellent chef with over 30 years of experience. He now owns two restaurants in the Valdarno, La Valle dell'Inferno with his residence connected and la Fiaschetteria where his nephews Riccardo and Daniele run the show. He also owns an establishment in Coconut Groove in Miami. Since that first fateful day, I have eaten at La Valle dell' Inferno and the Fiaschetteria numerous times and always had the best meals. Luciano was in NY last week and stayed with us for couple of days including the unassuming Saturday, the evening that he turned into a great and memorable experience, through a warm, comforting and soothing Ribollita.
La Ribollita, literally meaning "reboiled" because of its second passage in the pan to finish the dish, is sort of a bread soup made with kale, beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. It is a pretty simple dish, a reminder of the poor roots of the classic Italian cuisine. But trust me, when Robollita is done right, it's like a symphony of flavors in the mouth.
If you go to Tuscany, every little town and every person in the town will keep the secret of how to make the a perfect Ribollita. Some put more vegetables than others, some create a little crust when reboiling, etc, etc. I'm sure one could write an entire book with all the variations and the variations on the variations of Ribollita. The Tuscans, perhaps by nature, have a very efficient networking system, but do not allow it to mar their pride for their own specific creations. As Fabio Giannotti of La Fornace, winery in Montalcino once told me: "my Brunello is the best, but I talk with other winemakers about lots of things, especially when a "friend" has a problem and need information in how to deal with it." The same unassuming networking principle also works with recipes:" my Ribollita is the best but tell me one thing - how do you get the crust so crispy like that..."
So, that Saturday I came home from the shop, and Frasca, Luciano's friend Il Pimpi (in Tuscany more than anywhere else they use nicknames religiously) and my sister were waiting for me to eat a big pot of Ribollita. Luciano took few big spoons put in a pan and started to reboil it, then put it in four plates, landed some thin slices of onions over the top and drizzled some olive oil on it. I poured some Tenuta Vitalonga Elcione for everybody then we all sat, ate and started to travel through time and space, following the hands that made those simply delicious flavors throughout the centuries.
Buona Bevuta e Mangiata a Tutti

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dinning Out The Little Howl

It took me a little while, a year and a half, to finally go and pay my respect to Joey Campanaro, Chef/Owner of the Little Owl in the West Village. I met Joey several years ago when he was working at The Harrison, a restaurant right below my apartment in Tribeca. As I said I was long due to go there and savor the delicatessen Joey is capable to prepare, so Last Wednesday I'd decide to finally go and check it out. The place is fairly small but very welcoming, the kitchen is enclosed by glasses where Joey can check the dining room, there was a very inviting and enticing scent of home cooked food which in my opinion is always a good sign.
I was welcomed with a nice glass of Prosecco by Chris while Joey was waiving from behind the glass in kitchen, and after few minutes he sat us in a spacious and comfortable table, kind of amazing considering the size of the place. The menu is short but tempting I had hard time to choose from few succulent appetizer like the white risotto with egg yolk and truffles (my partner in crime choose that), the lobster soup (which was my choice), the duck breast with cranberry sauce, endive and walnut pesto or the crispy artichoke so popular that by 9 they already were out of it. The risotto was cooked to perfection (al dente) with enough white truffle on to make it a luscious plate, the lobster was flavorful with big chunks of tail in a little spicy broth. As entrees we both got the Lamb Chop; succulent, juicy, tender and flavorful. Once again the meat was perfectly cooked, served with cheese gnocchi, that almost melted in my mouth, and watercress onions salad.
To go with that I choose a nice bottle of Bordeaux Chateau de Lavaud 2004 full bodied and more new world style with some noticeable flavors of vanilla and strong fruits blending pretty well with the lamb. I must say that the Little Owl is a great little jewel hidden in the heart of the west village fairly priced that makes you feel like at home; I will soon be back to discover more from the menu.
I suggest you to make a reservation ahead of time being the space very limited; ideal for romantic dinners or small groups.
Sorry for the bad quality of the pictures I did took those with my phone...
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BYOB

Since the conglomerated eruption of nationally franchised family restaurants in the United States in the late 1970s, the vast majority of culinary service establishments have also become purveyors of alcohol. When places like Bennigan's, T.G.I.Friday's, and later Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse began to sweep the nation in response to the rocketing popularity of fast food, they brought with them the assumption that a place where you could sit, talk, have a steak on a plate and endless soda refills was also a place where you could purchase a draft beer, a glass of white zin or a scotch and soda. (They also served as the nation's chief harbinger of obesity, heart disease and deepening lack of respect for culinary proficiency; this however, is another topic for another day.)

Restaurants have more or less continued to cater to the slow-food crowd's propensity for drinking with dinner, partially because it's a relatively painless service to provide, and mostly because alcohol profits make up large portions of restaurant revenues (particularly in New York City, beverage bills often comprise well over half of a restaurant's profit margin). Some would consider the standard restaurant markup on a gin and tonic or a bottle of Bud akin to highway robbery, but considering the brusque and hefty expenses an establishment incurs to simply serve alcohol, those robberies may very well be as reasonable as the market will allow.

Aside from the costs of storing and maintaining various products, a restaurant must also apply for and be granted a legal permit to serve alcohol (in layman's tongue, a liquor license) by their state's Liquor Authority. In some states, this process is fairly painless and expedient; in others it is, in a word, not. The state of New York happens to fall into the latter category, and with over six thousand alcohol-serving restaurants in New York City alone, not only is the process of obtaining a liquor license mind-numbingly complicated, it often takes the lifespan of a hamster to complete. For some, this time is a liability build in to opening a restaurant - it is unavoidable, and must be factored into an establishment's creation. For others, an alternative concept (and the true subject of this edition of the De-Vino Times) is more enticing: BYOB.

The acronym BYOB was popularized in the 1950s, but it's become a household staple on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where BYOB restaurants and cafes have flourished for years. On Clinton Street in particular, Cube 63 is haven for the concept as well as The Orchard and Subo. It benefits both the proprietor and the patron, allowing one to showcase food, fun and atmosphere while the other can still enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail at a negligible relative cost (often up to 200% less than in a restaurant where liquor is served). These BYOB places are win-win, and should be experienced frequently and fervently.

Speaking of which... one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Il Bagatto, is now granting permission for BYOB on Tuesday nights - with no corkage fee. This is an opportunity not to be missed, especially with De-Vino only two blocks away! Imagine the warm, busting atmosphere, a rich plate of Osso Buco, and a bottle of Brunello that cost less than half of what it would have any other night; I don't know if I could bring myself to miss a BYOB night at a place with food that succulent.

Il Bagatto is located at 190 2nd St, near Avenue B. It is two blocks north of De-Vino. Reservations can be made at (212) 228-0977.
Happy BYOB dining!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Dumb Period

A while ago Eric Asimov wrote an article about the dumb period in wine, a particular time window in the course of a wine's life where the flavors disappear, hiding under an umbrella of tannins and tartaric acid.
It's a funny thing... every few years, that happens to my palate as well - a three or four-day period where everything seems to taste bitter and metallic.
Last night, a customer and I were having a chat about specific wines and how many times you have to drink a bottle to really understand it. He told me that in some cases, the wine will taste different almost every time, and though the food they were eating might have played a role, he was convinced that the inconsistency had to be deeper than that. As a matter of fact, there most certainly is; smell is the most corruptible of the senses, especially when talking about wine. The brain processes the information altering the interpretation based on experience or external influences.
I read an article a little while ago in an Italian newspaper that showed proof that the brain can exert influence over taste, i.e. your brain can make you taste things differently. Other senses can also interfere, e.g. certain colors and shape might induce us to think about bitter and sweet flavors.
In reality, even one's mood can affect taste, as well as certain medicines (antibiotics are deadly for the palate). Personal experience showed me that if I'm upset about something, things tend to taste more metallic; when distracted things are duller and acidic; and when I'm tired, they are sour and bitter. A good friend with a very fine palate once told me that tasting is an art and a gift that not everybody has. He made an analogy with a runner saying that most of us are able to run for 1oo yards, but very few of us can do it under 10 seconds, and considering how many years it took me to achieve a sufficient palate, I can relate. I guess a good taster is not just the one that can spot a flavor but is somebody that can filter all the interference that the information finds during the trip from the nose to the brain.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, November 02, 2007

Did you know...

...that in Montalcino in the late 70s the Mariani brothers, owners of Banfi, asked all the farmers in the area to plant Moscadello instead of Sangiovese?
The story of the Mariani in Montalcino is controversial, as their influence could have had a significant destructive effect on one of the best wines in the world - the Brunello di Montalcino.
In the late 70s, John and Henry Mariani bought 1,800 hectares in southwest part of Montalcino, a property that would soon expand to 2,830 hectares. They also built a humongous cellar and restored the castle for a cost of 200 billion of the old Lire. The two brothers made their fortune selling Lambrusco in the States, and their business plan was concentrated in making Moscadello frizzante, a sweet slightly fizzy white wine, and selling it in the USA to reply to the success of the Lambrusco.
They planted 350 Hectares with Moscadello, which is a marginal grape for Montalcino's climate and soils. They also made mistakes in choosing the training system for the vines, selecting one that didn't allowed the grapes to be exposed to the sun. And worst of all, they even asked the other growers, during an open city board meeting, to replace their Sangiovese in favor of the Moscadello, promising to buy the grapes from them. If it hadn't been for people like Piero Talenti, who at the time was in charge of Il Poggione, Franco Biondi Santi and many others who refused the offer, Brunello di Montalcino may have ceased to exist - forever. But because those that loved and had a much better understanding of the area kept their Sangiovese, one of Tuscany's signature wines remains intact.
The story's aftermath tells us that the steadfast Tuscan farmers were right to keep their Sangiovese. The Mariani brothers couldn't really sell much of their formerly promising sparkling wine, and eventually eradicated the Moscadello and planted Sangiovese.
Today Banfi is the biggest producer in Montalcino. Their lands are in the lowest and the flattest part of Montalcino, which is not ideal in any way for vineyards. Yet still, they are known around the world to be synonymous with Brunello di Montalcino, even though they tried to wipe out the Sangiovese, the very grapes used to create Brunello.
That is why I usually choose not to comment when I hear about how much good Banfi did for Montalcino, and for the promotion of Brunello di Montalcino around the world. While all of that might just as well be true, the fact remains: if it had been left up to the Mariani brothers, we would not have any Brunello today, whatsoever.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Italy Goes Fast!!!

Following the amazing victory of the Ducati in MotoGP, today Ferrari topped the two wheeled cousins this weekend in Brasil with Raikkonen win in a dramatic last grand prix of the season, that got him the world champion title against all odds.
Congratulations!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Help Us To Help You

My last post garnered a series of funny comments, which was its intention. But it also solicited a request for help from Malcolm H on what might be the RIGHT questions to ask when you need suggestions for a bottle of wine.
General speaking, common sense is the first and foremost consideration to keep in mind. Remember that you are asking for help, and even though the person in front of you is there to help you, you can improve the outcome of the situation significantly by doing nothing more than keeping it real.
If you don't know anything about what you'd like to buy, a good place to start is having at least few simple specifications, like the color (red, white, rose or sparkling) and /or price range (which is a very valuable piece of information in a market where a single format carries such a vast spectrum of value). Trust me, just those simple hints are of great help.
If you are looking for a specific taste, try to describe it (light, medium, heavy, sweet, dry, tannic, velvety etc etc etc). If you just say, "I like Merlot," you are not offering any valuable information, because the same grape (especially with an international varietal like Merlot) can create completely different wines, depending on the soil and the grower. Comment #3 from Lyle gave an example of a lot of quantifiers that are more confusing then helpful - specificity is the key in this situation. Lyle's next comment brings up another very good point - it is a regular occurrence to have someone come in, name a restaurant and ask if I know what wine they drank. To be perfectly honest, I don't think is possible to answer a question like that even if you know all the lists of every Manhattan restaurant (or Prague in Lyle's case). Restaurants' lists do not remain static, and sometimes number into the tens of thousands of bottles. There's just no way.
If you say that a certain wine was "delicious," obviously you liked it and that's why you are looking for it, but you're not offering anything specific about the wine (anyhow these are some tips I wrote a little while ago on what to do to remember a wine that you liked).
Asking about favorites could be a way to go but make sure that you and your wine adviser share similar taste.
Another suggestion I can give you is to build a relationship with your chosen wine expert. Try to talk with the same person every time you seek out a recommendation - after a little time your wine guy will understand your taste, based on the wines you liked or disliked. This relationship can shorten the buying process to something as quick as: "I have 4 people for dinner; I like some red and some white and I like to spend X amount of money. Please include Y as one of the bottles."
One last thought - with wine, especially if you are in a restaurant or a shop where the lists are carefully selected, you get what you pay for. This means it's probably a little self-defeating to ask for something like Domaine de la Romanee Conti for $10, because that doesn't exist.

Friday, October 05, 2007

May I ask a question???

I've wanted to write about this for a long time, and today seemed to be the right day to do it - the chronicle of silly questions asked in the world of wine and food. I'm not sure why, but for how long food and wine have been around (always), they certainly seem to merit a staggering array of bonehead remarks and requests. Sometimes, the questions aren't even about the food or wine... they're just inane. Herein, a small sampling:
Among the top ten I've ever been asked was this one, from my days behind the register at Il Bagatto, where one of my duties was to answer the phone. In my closing salutation at the end of a reservation call, I gave the address of the restaurant saying:
"we are located on 2nd street between avenues A and B, closer to B." Pretty clear directions, I'd say. So one day, I'm taking a reservation, and I give the address of the restaurant, and the voice on the other end of the line said "Where is second street?" I paused for a second, trying to find an answer that didn't sound rude. "It's between 1st and 3rd streets," I said. She thanked me and hung up... and was hopefully able to find 1st or 3rd street.
The restaurant was an infinite source of amazing questions like, "what are Funghi (she said "fungiai")?" "Mushrooms," I replied. The woman looked at the her date, puzzled, and the date looked at me, puzzled. I did my best to explain... "you know - mushrooms; they grow in the dirt... usually in the fall, when it's very damp..." Hopeless. The guy looked at the girl, the girl looked back at me, and ordered Gnocchi.

Also since I opened the store I've had to answer to a fair amount of poorly thought-out questions like:

"Do you have Tuscany?"
"Do you mean Tuscan wines?"
"No, no the wine has Tuscany was written on the label."
Really.

"Where are your reds?"
(For those unfamiliar with the layout of De-Vino, the northern wall of the store is approximately thirty feet by twelve feet, covered floor to ceiling with red wines. This question is usually glorified with a gesture in the general direction of that wall.)

"Do you have a bottle of wine, red or white, in the $ 20 range that will be different?"
This is a poorly formed question for any occasion, and rather than delving into what the wine should differ FROM, I decided that I preferred the silence and gave her a bottle of Sangiovese-Syrah from San Giminiano. I'm pretty sure that was different.

"What is the theme of your store?"
This one is a recurring question that I have learned to translate as, "What types of wines/which appelations do you stock?" It makes a fair amount of sense, I suppose, but it seems to me that the word "theme" should be reserved for literary critiques and bachelorette parties.

(Referring to an indigenous Italian grape) "How does this compare to, I don't know, a Cabernet or a Merlot?"
No comment.

"Do you have a pinot?"
"Yes. Several." (Unless you mean the colloquial French translation of a "pinot," which is a pinecone. Then no.)

And one of the most common requests of all: " Can you suggest something red? I usually like Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet... you know, something light?"
Light? News to me. - After few seconds I was able to process and translate the request and suggest an old vines Cotes du Rhone or an Italian Pinot Noir.

I think if I continue onward and upward, I might never stop. I would love, however, to hear some of your experiences of similar caliber.

Buona Risposta a Tutti

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Grande Ducati (Ducati Rules)!!!

This is another Italian miracle; a factory that is still Italian with little over a thousand employee (Honda has 167,231 and Yamaha 23,500) managed to win the MotoGp (the equivalent of Formula 1) with 21 years old driver Casey Stoner.
Ducati, founded by 1926 in Borgo Panicale (Bologna, Italy) by Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, started their participation to the Motogp in 2002 after leading for several years in the Suberbike tour.
In order to see another Italian bike on top of the Championship we have to go back to 1973 when the MV Augusta, driven by Agostini, won it for the last time after 6 years in the row.
From that date up to today the races were dominated by Japanese bikes, that's why I'm talking about an Italian miracle well orchestrated by the 100 people that runs Ducati's race division, making possible, in spite of the considerably smaller budgets compare to the Japanese giants, to keep a high level of technology, care for details, reliability and performance (the Desmosedici GP7 is the fastest bike of the "Circus").
Casey won against Valentino Rossi (AKA The Doctor holder of several records and the fastest, at least up to now, driver in the Championship) and the Yamaha with still 3 races to go, the cheery on the cake was Loris Capirossi, at his last season, and his victory in the Japanese GP securing the World Title for Teams as well.
I wish you all the luck for the next season and another year of successes with Casey Stoner and Marco Melandri, which is going to take Capirossi place, hopping to see an Italian driver win on an Italian bike.
Bravi Ragazzi senza persone ed aziende come voi l'Italia avrebbe ben poco di cui andar fiera.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eurolandia Is Getting Expensive

Among the millions bad news about the world economics we have also to register the new Euro record over the dollar.
Now we need 1.41 Dollars to buy 1 Euro and considering that most of the non mass produced, higher quality foods and wines come from Europe you make the math on how much more expensive your life will be.
The decision of the Federal Reserve to cut by half a point the prime rate, not followed by the European counterpart, gave the Euro another, not needed, push.
A friend, an importer that works mainly with Europe, predicted the Euro at 1.55 within 9 months.
What that means translated in the everyday life?
If you had bought a bottle of wine for 10 Euro in 1999 you would had pay $ 11.8, same wine in January 2000 $ 10.089, in October of the same year (low record for the currency) $ 8.252 and up to January 2003 you would have paid from $ 8.3 to $ 9.5.
The funny thing is that for couple of years after the "September 11" the dollar hold up maintaing the rate under the $ 1, beginning in 2003 (strangely after the US won the war in Iraq) the green note started to sink and never stopped; in Jannuary 2003 that bottle would have cost you $ 10.5 in 2004 $ 12.75 in 2005 $ 13.4 in 2006 would had save some at $ 11.9 and $ 13 at the beginning of the current year.
Today the same exactly bottle will cost 14.049 dollars and if the prediction turns in reality a painful $ 15.5 bill will be presented to you!!!
I know for a fact that most of the European producer (except the big Chateaus in France that are the only ones able to rise prices because supported by the new money markets like Russia, India and China) in order to keep some sort of competitiveness in the US market have lowered their prices hoping in a stronger dollar, but that represent a palliative that is not a long term solution.
I hope that the unstoppable run of the Euro will soon end so to enjoy a good bottle of wine or a nice plate of pasta I don't have to take a bank loan.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, September 14, 2007

WBW Bruna Pigato U Baccan

For my first WBW (Wine Blogging Wednesday) I opened the new vintage of a Ligurian Pigato - the U' Baccan from Bruna.
I wrote about the wine's younger brother, Le Russeghine a little while ago, and I was curious to try the house's signature wine. U Baccan (dialect for "the boss") grapes come from old Pigato vines and are harvested late. The production is minimal (180 cases) and the wine is made with very little technological aid.
The area is impervious and steep, located near the coast, where the mountains run down into the Ligurian sea. The vines lie in very narrow terraces and it is very hard to work in the vinyards. Pigato is closely related to Vermentino, and it's mostly found in the Ligurian provinces of Savona, Imperia and Genova.
The grapes have red reflection on the skin when ripe, and the wine usually has prevalent minerality and often marked acidity.
I opened up the 2005 harvest, and as soon as the cork was popped, the wine was a little tight but already showing a great spectrum of flavors.
As the wine warmed up in the bottle and in the glass, some tropical scents of papaya and pineapple showed, followed by refreshing and charming notes of white peaches.
The juice kept on changing up to the end giving then petroleum (like in a German Riesling) flavors and some balsamic scents of mint leaves.
The structure of the wine was supported by the low PH, which gave freshness, longevity, and complexity. The firm body completed a very good, interesting and unique wine.
My overall comment for the "U Baccan" is very positive, a white with strong character, aging potential of another 5 to 10 years, good with both fish and meats. I want to thank Robert Chadderdon for letting me discover it.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

The Good Bacteria

Or better yet if you spend time in the dirt you'll be happier and more energetic.
I've started to read a magazine called Discover, after my my friend Bob Guccione Jr. gave me some copies last time I delivered wines to his office.
Now, to tell the truth I thought to myself, "when am I going to read a science magazine filled with numbers and incomprehensible words?" Then I thought, hey, what better place than the bathroom? So, that's where I opened up the July issue and I was surprised to see familiar words, very cool pictures and down to earth (literally) articles.
The one I want to talk about is on page 18, and is called "Is dirt the new Prozac?".
The article underlines the effect of a bacteria that lives in the dirt called Mycobacterium Vaccae, which activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons, the same neurons targeted by Prozac. The study made a very compelling argument for the idea that the bacteria is something of an antidepressant, that can also improve energy levels, help deal with pain, and for those who are terminally ill, it can heighten the quality of life. How do we assimilate this harmless bacteria?
Simply by breathing it, evidently. The M. Vaccae is present in the soil, and you can get a healthy (literally) dose of it just by walking through a field or hanging out in a garden, or by ingesting it through water or plants, like carrots or lettuce.
I wonder if any shrinks are aware of this, and if they'd be comfortable exchanging Prozac for long walks in the dirt.
Where my personal experience is concerned: walking the vineyards always gave me a sense of euphoria and happiness that I thought was connected to the scenario - breathtaking views, surrounded by rows and rows of grapes. I'm sure those things were a substantial part of my experience, but that friendly and happy bacteria was playing a meaningful role as well. So next time you feel a little blue, see if a walk in the park will make you feel better - you don't really have anything to lose - other than a little time.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, August 31, 2007

Harvest Time

I've recently come back from another Italian tour: 12 days spent between vineyards and friends.
The excuse this time was a little project I'm working on with Roberto Cipresso (sorry, but I can't tell you anything about it, at least for the time being). My hope was to have some time on the beach and a chance for relaxation. That, of course, did not happen. What DID happen was an amazing 2500 Km tour of southern Italy.
So far, the 2007 vintage has the highest temperature average of any in recorded history, with an unusually hot winter to the point that the first pruning was delayed by as much as two months. A very hot spring and summer followed without much rain, and when rain did come, it fell in short and intense precipitations. When I landed in Rome we walked into a temperature between 33 and 40 Celsius (91 to 104 degrees Farenheit). Across the "Boot", some had already started to cut white grapes and reds to be used for the sparklers. The acidity of the fruit was rapidly declining and sugar levels were rising, to the point at which the cutting was the only logical solution.
The first leg of my trip was dedicated to owner/winemaker Bruno De Conciliis, in the beautiful Cilento national park. Thanks to the precise navigation system of my rented Mercedes (the ugliest one I've ever seen), it took me about 3 hours to reach my destination. Bruno is currently in the process of building new cellars, which means he is working in smaller, construction-addled spaces. Despite the cramped conditions, he is trying to make the best of a difficult situation, as you can see in the video. We tried some barrels of wine that will not be released, even though the wines were excellent.
videoThose barrels contained some experiments he's doing with Fiano, Greco di Tufo and Primitivo. His goal is to retain elegance in the wines, and control the strong fruit that came with territory in favor of the secondary flavors that are more commonly found in Campanian wines. The current vintage was early for him as well, but I truly thought I would see much heavier damage to the grapes, either cooked or with skin problems. Instead, the majority were very healthy. The only major detraction for his 2007 harvest was that he had lost about 20% of the fruit to the "Peronospora," a mold that kills the clusters. Because he didn't use any chemical treatment against it, he also told me that most winemakers who treated the plants lost around 17%, making bearable the road he pursued, and less expensive considering the money he saved.
The grapes were ready for the first passage to cut the green clusters in order to make sparkling wine. Going through the field of Aglianico (one of the five vineyards that provides the Aglianico for the Naima) one could notice the different maturations from plant to plant and row to row; some grapes were already a thick blue color while others in the same cluster were still green. Eating the grape you could feel already some nice perfumes and a good amount of sugar, with the seeds just starting to turn brown (an indication of an advanced stage of maturation). The acidity was a bit low but enough to give the grapes a sense of freshness.
The Fiano grapes were ready as well for the first passage and in spectacular condition. Amazingly, the acidity was pretty high despite the warm weather. When I left the area the thermometer was around the 98 degrees; which just goes to show you how different Italy is, climate-wise.
I spent a couple of days in Rome where the temperature was between 90 and 100, and then I went to Montalcino, where it was almost the same temperature as in Rome. I met Roberto at the Winecircus, where the facilities are almost completed, a very impressive improvement since April. They also were ready for the "Vendemmia:" the machinery were been cleaned and prepared to receive the grapes from the trucks.
Here, the temperature went from 91 to 64 overnight with some intense precipitation in the early morning. When I woke up, my window was above a bed of clouds in a scenario more proper for the fall than the end of summer. They hadn't had a drop of rain since June 12th, and for several reasons the rain gave a break - with the plants under intense stress, the much colder temperature and the water were good factors. The high humidity... not so much. At the same moment in Sicily, the temperature was 105 degrees, and in Cilento, it was around 95. On a temperature-gauged map, it would have looked like Italy was cut in half. The weirdest thing was that around the middle of the day, the temperature went back in the 90s, only to drop again at night into the high 6os.
With Roberto, we walked down the La Fiorita vineyards. Here also, the grapes were healthy and in very similar condition to the De Conciliis ones: the skins were intact and the flavors were concentrated, with a good amount of sugar. During the visit, Roberto was kind enough to open a bottle of the last release of his Brunello - the 2001 Riserva, aged for 6 years before being released. The wine was very elegant with soft tannins and a strong flavors of violet and cherries. Some notes of leather were also showing; the 2001 vintage turned out so well for him that he decided to bottle just Riserva and no regular Brunello. We shared the wine and a lovely dinner with some friends at the Winestation: Giovanni Negri, owner of Serradenari winery in Piedmont, Fabio Leccisotti, without whose advice Roberto would be a lost man (and probably broke too), and Bob Guccione Jr, editor\owner of Discover Magazine. And after all that, the evening was just long enough for a bottle of Champagne Ayala in "Piazzetta" (Montalcino's downtown square) before my ugly Mercedes took me back to the Hotel dei Capitani, where I took the picture you see above. For the second day in a row I woke up looking at fog, but this time I was in it!!! I have never seen anything like that before the end of August in Italy!
Before leaving Montalcino for Umbria, I stopped by the Talenti estate where I was greeted by Riccardo, nephew of Pierluigi, the estate founder.
Young and passionate Riccardo took me for a tour of the facilities. They now work in 3 different spaces, the first of which was the stocking room, where they were bottling. It reminded me of when I was a kid and the Cantina Cooperativa di Pitigliano had bought bottling machinery - the members were invited for the inauguration. I guess at that time it was a pretty big deal to buy such an expensive machine.
He then showed me where, in the vinification quarters, they have several big stainless steel tanks, square-shaped, reminding the visitors that those tanks where conceived to maximize the space.
At the end of the tour we tasted the 2005 Rosso di Montalcino and the 2002 Brunello; the Brunello was quite good considering the year was very difficult - he corked just 2000 bottles of Brunello for that year.
When I left Montalcino, the weather was cold and rainy. Hard to believe that the very next day the temperature will rise again to over 100 degrees.
I got to Umbria in a couple of hours and Gigi welcomed me with a much needed jump in the pool. Although the sun was out, the water was freezing. Afterward, we walked the vineyards around the house, rows of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Gigi's plants are 5 years old, so they are still very young and therefore vigorous. He also uses irrigation during the hottest part of the summer, so the plants and the leaves were in perfect condition. The grapes were also in perfect conditions with very few cooked clusters. That was partially due to Gigliola's great idea to cut the leaves, so that the grapes are exposed to the morning sun, but protected from it in the afternoon.
My trip is almost over, I left Gigi an Ficulle around 12 PM to Roma; it was a very hot day the temperature rose up to 42 Celsius (107), so what was the hope of most of the "enologi" for some rain and then good weather is turning in reality; 2007 is going to be the vintage where the winemakers can make the difference with their intuitions and expertise. The cold break and the rain are signs that need to be interpret by the professionals, but looking at the grapes, I can say that they are healthy and beautiful and that is always a good sign. We'll just have to see what happens during and after the fermentations.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Monday, August 06, 2007

Would you trust a restaurant were the owner does not eat there or a producer that doesn't drink his own wine?

I think most of us would say no I wouldn't eat there or I wouldn't drink that; so my next question is how many bottles of Yellow Tail the founders drink?
How many times per week McDonald's CEO eats a Big Mac?
I believe their answer would show a zero or a number very close to it, so why is that millions of people around the planet still trust those companies?
Now I have a question for the editors of wine and food magazines; how come you never asked that question? Although I saw the founders of Yellow Tail being interviewed several times about their business model, and I heard them praise the exceptional quality and pureness of their products but I never heard them asked do you consume your own products? (better if a lie detector is involved)
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cabernet Night

This is a true story about a typical case of, as Notorious B.I.G. used to say, "getting high on your own supply."
The excuse was a visit from Luigi on a summer Saturday night. Luigi is a jack-of-all-trades (master of many) who helps me out with various aspect of my work. He also happens to be a close friend. - Saturday was our version of boys night, so we met at my shop, where I decided to take a bottle right from my wall; the Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo was calling me, and I most definitely answered that call. I opened the bottle at 9:00 pm, and as soon I uncorked it, a strong perfume of black cherries began to perforate all the air around the bottle. Even before I had poured it into the glass, the cherries were supported by some leather and spice; great nose very vibrant and young, even though the bottle had already reached its 10th birthday.
1997 was a hot year, but in Tuscany it was close to perfect, lest we are reminded of the hype behind the release of the 97 Brunello. This Cabernet base "Super Tuscan" shows a strong bouquet and a heavy weight connected to the climate conditions but still maintaining a great tannic structure and enough acidity to make it very drinkable. Luigi offered a perfect comparison: "it's like an agile fat man".
Castello dei Rampolla is a winery situated in Panzano, in Chianti, and has been part of the Di Napoli Rampolla family since 1739. But, it wasn't until the early 70's that they started to vinify and bottle their own wines.
The winery is organic and biodynamic and the harvest is done by hand; today Maurizia and her brother and Luca Di Napoli Rampolla are in charge of the operations.
One hour in, the tannins became firmer, the dark cherries became less sweet and hints of rosemary and white pepper start to show - the finish was getting longer and longer.
The wine was so good that Luigi and I decided to open another bottle. But we wanted something different. Luigi wasn't sure that we could match the Vigna d'Alceo... but the Ridge Montebello Cabernet 1977 did the trick.
If I had to compare the two, I would say that the Ridge was more elegant and traditional then the Rampolla, probably because 1997 was a very hot year in Italy and the wines tended to be more fruit forward. Both had the same dark cherries and leather as flavor base, but the Ridge was a bit more austere and linear.
Amazingly, after 2 bottles for as many people, we were still making sense and able to appreciate the wines until the last sip, which - as usual - was the best one.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Most embarrassing wine moments


As it goes in every profession, in the wine business, we have our fair share of embarrassing moments.
Personally, I can remember my first time with the Rabbit, a "heavy duty machinery" corkscrew that I notice sitting in a lot of womens' kitchens; I was at a friend's house and obviously, I brought some wine. When I asked for a corkscrew, she pointed at a stainless steel case on the counter, and there it was - the Rabbit (my guess is that it's called as such for the look of it's handles, which comprise a crude representation of rabbit's ears).
So, I put it on top of the bottle and with a firm movement I went back and forth like I was playing a slot machine.
The cork was magically gone - and not just from the neck of the bottle, but also from the opener. I looked on the floor and on the counter, under everything in the kitchen... there was no trace of it. This, of course, was because I had pushed the cork into the bottle instead of pulling it out. I discovered the embarrassing misfortune when I tried to pour with little to no success, inducing my friend to raucous laughter. I remembered about that episode last night when my friend Piers, in an attempt to re-cork a magnum, used a regular bottle cork, and watched it easily drop into the bottle.
Tastings are also places prone to embarrassments. I remember a guy that said something really funny while one of us had just sipped from his glass, and watching the unfortunate man's eyes open wide in the attempt to not laugh, then seeing the red wine coming out of his nose. A particularly unpleasant but highly comical scenario. Still in the tasting department, I have to mention another slip-up; me mistaking the Sella & Mosca Tanca Farra, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cannonau from Sardegna, for an American Pinot Noir during a dinner with Dino Tantawi of Vignaioli Selection, and Chris Cannon of L'Impero. Oops.
There are also tasting goofs that occur more frequently, and are of a more pedestrian nature... there's just nothing you can do to prevent them. For instance - numerous times I've swallowed into the wrong canal and started to cough like there was no tomorrow, while trying to give my feedback under the embarrassed and often concerned look of my interlocutor. Wine and windpipe do not mix.
I think I can go on for a while in this department being that I haven't mentioned any embarrassing moments related to excessive consumption, but I would like to hear your experiences, as well.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, July 13, 2007

We are reaching the bottom!!!

In today's news from Italy, the Guardia di Finanza, one of the Italian Police forces, seized 24,000 Hectoliters (572,000 gallons ca) of white table wine that was supposed to be sold fraudulently as Prosecco and Pinot Grigio IGT delle Venezie!!!
7 people have been indicted for making simple white table wine and bottling it as an IGT (indicazione geografica tipica) or as the refreshing sparkling wine from the Veneto Region. The thought... it's just unbelievable. It's like doing a cheaper version of something that is already very inexpensive.
The grapes were coming from wineries that were struggling (from Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany and Friuli Venezia Giulia); all of a sudden, they were turning in high profits, and with a complicated system of fake invoices and other documents, they were able to pass off the lowest grade of Italian wine for a little better than the lowest grade of Italian wine!
Yes, that's right - we're not talking of Sassicaia or vintage Bordeaux being counterfeited and passed off yielding high profit for the forgers. We're talking about people who were cheating on wines that are sold for only a few Euros at the wineries.
But! The amount of wine seized by the police was enough for 3,200,000 bottles. even if they could have made a profit margin of 1 euro per bottle, it's still a very good return for one year. But I have a feeling that the margins are much higher than that; I know for a fact that you can buy several thousand gallons of wine from Chile or Argentina and have it shipped to Italy for less then 50 Euro cents per liter. Then you'd be missing only the cork (a plastic cork can cost as low as 20 Euro cents), the label and the bottle (which can add other 15 cents for a total of 0.85 Euros!). Now if the same wine is sold as loose table wine, it has a value of about 1 to 1.5 Euros per bottle, depending on the quality. But if the same wine is marked Pinot Grigio IGT delle Venezie or Prosecco, it can be sold for 2 to 7 Euros, depending on quality. - In the end, that fraud could have brought in over four million Euros in profit. Absolutely unbelievable.
This one example (one very big example) of the truth in the phrase, "you get what you pay for," considering that those table wines are the bottles that end up on NYC store shelves for less than 6 dollars. Buyer beware!
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fragile World


I spend a good amount of time in front of my computer, and a fair part of that time surfing the net, looking at fellow bloggers' sites.
I must say, Dr. Vino is a refreshing font of information, with his articles that are very wide-ranging, concise and most of the time (even when they're kind of twisted) on point.
On July the 2nd he posted part of an interview with Robert Parker for the Naples (FL) Daily News;

"For most people, I think, giving 100 points is almost setting up a situation for the people who are reading it … to be disappointed because you have somebody who’s well-known and has credibility saying it’s perfection in wine. And there’s always the issue: Is there perfection in wine?

I’ve always tried to explain it saying that, you know, I’m a very passionate person and an emotional person. I really think probably the only difference between a 96-, 97-, 98-, 99-, and 100-point wine is really the emotion of the moment."

Now the reality is that the difference between a 96 and 100 could mean a significant change in sales, meaning that essentially, the wine world is so fragile that the emotions of an individual can change the fate of a winery.
Better late than never, I say; finally, we hear something objective from the mouth of a wine critic. 100 points does NOT mean perfection, 100 means that a particular wine in a particular moment gave a particular person a strong emotion.
Now the same wine drunk on another occasion might have garnered a lower score. Ergo, a 100-point wine means that the producer of that wine is probably very lucky that his/her bottle was drunk or tasted at the right time within the right frame of mind.
Isn't this system a little too unreliable? Isn't it absurd that what one person has to say about a bottle of wine can mean millions of dollars in sales? Are consumers so used to having somebody telling them what to like and what not to like that their own brains and taste buds are now useless to their natural purposes?
A little while ago, I posted an article on ratings in which I posited that is not possible to rate a wine with a number chart, because an emotion cannot be quantified and because wine is not an exact science.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The End Day XII

Once again "Il Bel Paese" gave us another gorgeous day - bright sun and fresh air. After breakfast, we met with Luciano and head towards Il Carnasciale.
The story of this winery started in the mid 1980s, thanks to Bettina Schnabel Rogosky and her husband Wolf. It is the story of the Caberlot, which is not a blend, but a specific grape. The grape was first discovered in the 60's when agronomist Remigio Bordini came across a unique clone growing in Veneto.
That clone appeared to be a genetic modification of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it was also showing the characteristics of Merlot. That clone was "adopted" by Remigio, and was grown and cultivated under his care for over 20 years before finding its home in the Chianti region, more specifically in Bucine, near the Fattoria di Petrolo under the shadow of the Galatrona tower.
After a good 15 minutes on dirt roads we passed by the Petrolo estate, and shortly after we saw the "Podere" entrance. Peter Shilling, the winemaker, welcomed us with his marked German accent, and to the side, there it was, shining under the sunlight; the Caberlot field (picture on top), 10.000 plants on one hectare of land for a production of less than 1500 magnums.
The house/winery is very small up to the point that Peter was joking about having barriques stored under his bed. In reality you can spot the barrels almost everywhere around the cellars, as you can see from picture.
To the right is a photo of the main floor, where the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and below that floor is the barrique room, although the barriques are placed wherever there is space for them.
The racking system is made so that the barrels can be turned for the "batonage," and to maximize space (they can hold three rows of barrels). While we were tasting different vintages from the barrels, Peter told us that the estate uses the help of Vittorio Fiore as consultant, that their yields are ridiculously low and that they had to decline a Caberlot request from the former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi the year before. The plants were planted in 1985, after a long bureaucratic journey, so for good luck, they buried a bottle of 1985 Sassicaia in the field.
The winery also produces the "Carnasciale," a younger brother of the Caberlot made from younger vines of Caberlot. It was bottled for the first time in the year 2000, and we had a bottle of the 2004 after the cellar tour.
One thing I can say about their wines - I've never tried a single-varietal wine that tasted like a Bordeaux before these. They are amazing products with an amazing history.
It was time to leave this little piece of paradise to go visit Theophil, probably the smallest winery in the world.
Peter helps Theophil to produce his wine, a blend of Sangiovese and a little bit of Merlot. Theophil Butz is a Swiss graphic designer (or "inspirator," as he defines himself on his business cards). He bought his house with few rows of vines, and restored it. The cellars are next to the living room, and everything is on the same level. He has 1 small stainless steel vat and 2 barriques for a total production of 300 magnums, which are store behind the barrels in the wall.
Theo opened a bottle, and we tasted it. The wine was very harmonious and elegant, filled with fresh cherries and leather flavors. He opened a 2004 ,which is both the first bottling and the current vintage - I must say that we enjoyed it a lot, and I'm currently working on having the wine imported.
In the picture on the left, you can see Theo in the light blue shirt, Peter in the middle, and Luciano "I' Frasca" on the right, talking (most likely) about politics after we finished the wine.
Sadly it was time to leave, and on the way back to Rome, Piers and I exchanged some thoughts on the trip. We both concurred on the exceptional quality of the wines we'd tasted during our journey, particularly how good the first releases had been; the Castello di Vicarello, Tenuta Vitalonga and Theophil wineries will have a very bright and successful future.
I would like to end this diary thanking everybody we met for the exquisite hospitality they provided, in particular: Gigi Maravalle and Il Frasca for giving us a place to stay; Roberto Cipresso and Billy for the wonderful time in Montalcino, as well as Fabio Giannotti of La Fornace, and Caroline and Jan of Pian dell'Orino; Peter and Theo for showing us some wines that are impossible to find and making them available for my store; Marina for the great meal at il Boccon Divino; and il Frasca once again for the amazing food he prepared for us.
Grazie a Tutti
THE END!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sarteano Day XI

The alarm went off at 8 am; the air was fresh and crisp, the sun was already warming up the earth and a formidable number of birds saluted us with their twitter; yet another spectacular day was ahead of us. The first stop was a more in-depth tour of the Vitalonga cellars. Gigi first took us into the room where the stainless tanks are; the estate vinifies each and every parcel of the vineyard separately, and the tanks are temperature-controlled, giving winemaker Riccardo Cotarella the privilege of having total control of every step of the fermentation process.
Down below the first room, there was the "Barricaia" were the barriques are stored. After the fermentation the wine is transferred by gravity into barrels. Vitalonga employs 3 different kind of wood (Slovenian, French, and American), and splits the wine between new and second hand barrels, were the malolatic fermentation is carried.
When we got to the barrique storage, one of the farmers was moving the solid components in the barrels, batonage, with a funny instrument that looks more like a weapon. We started to taste the barrels, from the youngest to the one that were about to be bottled. Tasting from the barrels is like looking at a baby and from the small sounds and movements they make, you guess how it will be once it's all grown up. We tasted each barrel of the Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot from 2 different parcels (that's a total of 36, not bad to begin the day).
After the barrel sampling, we got in car again, headed toward Sarteano, where Erika was expecting us for lunch at Tenuta di Trinoro.
Here is how small the world is - I met Erika a long time ago, here in NYC while she was working for Domaine Select. Then she moved to Indonesia for few years, and then went back to Italy to work for Mr. Franchetti. It happened by coincidence that I learned of her new adventure, and I was very happy to see her again after so many years.
After a good 45-minute drive, we left the paved road for a white one, and once again we were in the middle of nowhere with amazing 360-degree views of the incomparable countryside. We got there a bit late, left the car and hopped in a old Fiat Panda 4x4 (driven by Erika) to go up to the house for some food and wine. Erika handled the car like a rally pilot in those steep and narrow roads, as we passed by part of the gorgeous vineyards. and when we got to the top, there was a beautiful country house, overlooking the valley guarded by the Mount Amiata, opposite us.
During lunch, Erika opened up a bottle of "Le Cupole" and a bottle of "Passopisciaro". the story of the "azienda" is very unusual, starting with the location; nothing really worth noticing ever came out of Sarteano; then the grape varietals planted - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot; and last but not least, the crazy owner Andrea Franchetti (who is also the agronomist and the winemaker) that personally choose the blends.
Andrea vinifies every varietal separately until, in April, he figures out the blends. For additional information on his practices, I also suggest visiting the very informative web site of Tenuta di Trinoro.
Passopisciaro is made from Nerello Mascalese from the estate's Sicilian properties, more specifically in the Mount Etna area; both the Trinoro and the Passopisciaro wines are produced in very limited quantity.
After lunch Erika took us around with the red Panda to show us the lake that supplied the water to the vineyards. She also showed us the new plants, and the most precious part of Franchetti's estate; his potato field!!!!!!
Yes is not a mistake nor a joke, Andrea most precious love is his potato field, just consider that he got selected seeds from a special American clone and the King of Belgium, a relation of Franchetti, helped to plant them, the funny part is that there were tens of Italians and Belgians special force and secret service to protect the King while he was planting potatoes...
Then she took us in the cellar, the fermentation is made in cement vats, then the wine is transfered in the barriques for up to six months before going into the bottle.
Our next stop will take us into the core of the Chianti Classico region where my friend Luciano AKA "Il Frasca" was waiting for us. I met Luciano almost 10 years ago, he owns one of the best restaurant I ever eat in called La Valle dell'Inferno overlooking the Ambra river.
The restaurant also have some rooms very well designed with terrace, little kitchen, living room, large bathroom and a big sleeping room, mine also had a small sauna that I used in order to get rid of some toxins :)
After few aperitif it was dinner time and Luciano start to pull out trays of raw scampi, shrimps and some claims and other shell fishes.
Then we had some pasta with asparagus and zucchini followed by a veal "Tagliata" as per wine we had a great bottle of Caberlot from Il Carnasciale, the wine was showing great fruit and body, although the 20o2 vintage wasn't a good one, after some time it start to show notes of pepper and minerality becoming more complex as the oxygen was interacting with the antioxidants.
I will not tell you more about this wine and winery, which has a very interesting story, because Piers and I will visit them the following day therefore I will tell you more in the next post.
The dinner finished with some delicious homemade Tiramisu, Pannacotta, some fresh sorbet and few shots of Grappa.
Every time I come back to Italy I always look forward to spend at least couple of days with Luciano, he is one of my mentor that helped me to learn and understand wine, I like to hang in his restaurant and see his friends that eventually became mine too, I love the irony involved in every conversation, the way the Tuscans make every situation light with some funny jokes and sharp comments, somehow this places recharge me with vital energy.
Another day is about to end, and tomorrow is going to be the last of our trip, probably the one that will reserve us the biggest surprises!
To Be Continued...