Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enolaboratorio® Kicks off its Spring WIne tasting Series

Spring has arrived and brought Enolaboratorio® with it. Enolaboratorio® is a series of wine tastings designed by Fabio Cimmino, Mauro Erro and Tommaso Luongo of the Association of Italian Sommeliers, Naples.

Enolaboratorio® has enjoyed great success this past year and is picking back up its season. A series that discusses the real stories behind the men and women who have made an impact in the wine world. A series dedicated to the Luoghi Comuni, Familair Places. A series that will try to deepen our understanding and appreciation of wine growing areas, Italian and non. This journey will begin on the 31st of March with our glasses of wine accompanied by the culinary delights of Adele Chiagano.

Here is the schedule:

Wednesday, March 31 
 Double Mini/Vertical Wine Tasting
Dolcetto di Ovada of Dott. Giuseppe Ratto Vignaiolo in Roccagrimalda…
Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Ratto
Cost for the evening € 35 – time 2030 hrs
Le Olive 1987 / Le Olive 1993 /Gli Scarsi 1997/
Le Olive 1997/Gli Scarsi 2001/Gli Scarsi 2004

Thursday, April 15
Luoghi Comuni, Familair Places: a dive between the vines of Pinot Nero del Mazzon
Cost for the evening € 35 – time 2030 hrs

Cantina Nals Margreid / Alto Adige Mazzon Pinot Nero 2007

Azienda Agricola Gottardi /Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mazzon 2006

Viticoltore F. Carlotto/ Alto Adige Filari di Mazzon Pinot Nero 2007

Fam. Kurt Rottensteiner, Brunnenhof-Mazzon /Alto Adige Pinot Nero Riserva Mazzon 2006

Tenuta J. Hofstätter/ Alto Adige Riserva Mazzon Pinot Nero 2007.

Thursday, April 22
Enolaboratorio: Vertical wine tasting with Vigna del Vassallo from Azienda Vitivinicola Colle Picchioni of Paola Di Mauro

Cost for the evening € 40 – time 2030 hrs

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 1989

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 1992

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 1993

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 1995

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 1998

Colle Picchioni Vigna del Vassallo 2001

Thursday, April 29
Luoghi Comuni, Familiar Places: The best Barbaresco blends

Cost for the evening € 40 – time 2030 hrs

Azienda Agricola Castello di Neive /Barbaresco Vigneto Santo Stefano 2004

Cantina dei Produttori di Barbaresco /Barbaresco Vigneto Asili 2005

Cantina dei Produttori di Barbaresco /Barbaresco Vigneto Moccagatta 2005

Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Cortese /Barbaresco Vigneto Rabajà 2004

Azienda Vinicola Ugo Lequio / Barbaresco Vigneto Gallina 2001.

Location: Enoteca Divinoinvigna – Via S. Freud, 33/35 – Napoli

We'd like to recognize Alessandro Masnaghetti and Armando Castagno for their valuable advice





For more info, or to reserve a place, contact divinoinvigna@libero.it 081 3722670 – 329 6467600

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saving Myself for Vinitaly.....

I've attended quite a few wine tastings and events recently, but I've decided to take a break.  Well, at least for a couple of weeks.  I'm 'saving' myself for Vinitaly.

Imagine....5 days in one of Italy's most enchanting cities.  A city known for its art, architecture, Romeo and Juliet, and every April...Vinitaly.  Vinitaly is a HUGE wine fair that will be held in Verona 8-12 April.  Their web site (here) says that there are over 4,200 reasons to visit.  Meaning 4,200 exhibitors will be on hand to show you what they've got.  HUGE.

I've decide to go this year and have been bombarded with advice by Vinitaly Veterans.  Advice like plan out your day, organize your tastings, make a list of who you want to see, do not pass go, do not collect $200, etc...You get the picture.

So, over the next week I will be doing just that. Checking out the map, consulting the list of exhibitors by region (here), narrowing down which wine tastings I would like to attend....I know, rough....

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student- Una Chiacchierata with Francesco Martusciello

Monday, March 22nd, I was a little apprehensive about my third lesson to begin.  The topic for the evening was wine production.  A topic, I feared, if not presented just right, I would get lost in the vocabulary, formulas, scientific discussions.  So, I was happy to see that our guest lecturer for the evening was Francesco Martusciello, noted enologist and Grotte del Sole CEO.  If there was ever a person who would be able to grab my attention on this subject, I was confident that he would be the one...and I was correct.

Una chiacchierata, a discussion, as Francesco called it, on wine production beginning with the vendemmia, harvest.  Wine making, good wine making, requires a lot of human intervention.The big question here was when do you harvest?  An answer might be, when the grape is mature.  Well, yes, but it also depends on what your intent is.  When a grape matures, the level of sugar increases while the acidity decreases.  So, if you want a spumanti with high acidity and low sugar, you would pick the grapes earlier than if you wanted to make a sweet dessert wine.

Another area he went into was how do want to harvest?  Francesco strongly believes that the best way is by hand, using crates that are ventilated and will not hold more than 20 kg.  This obviuosly takes more time and will cost the winery more money, but here the key is quality.

Grapes picked, we went into discussions on fermentation and the wine presses.  Decisons need to be made like where will you ferment the wine? Steel vats or wooden barrels.  This, once again, depends on your intent.  Where will you age the wine? The answer, once again, what do you want the final product to be.  White wine or red?  Young wine? Steel Vat.  You want it to age...wooden barrel. Wooden barrel or barrique?  What size, type of wood, and how it was produced...all questions that need to be answered each step of the way.  I had no idea.

Then it is on to bottling and deciding how long you should age the wine in the bottle before it goes on sale.  So it is a complex process. 

Now time for the wine tasting.  Once again, three wines.  This time, however, Francesco led us through the wine tasting follwoing the Ais wine tasting card which was on the big screen behind us. The wines were served in the following order:

Collio Pinot Bianco 2007 DOC 14%-Toros
Visually, we noticed a pale straw color, crystal clear, and fliud.  The aromas were a quite intense, scarcely complex, elegant, fruity, mineral, and balsamic.  Taste-dry, medium warm, quite fresh, quite tannic, sapid, balanced, weak body, ready, and well rounded.

Costa D'Amalfi 2008 13%-Marisa Cuomo

Here we have a rosè.  Visually, cherry red, limpid, and fluid.  The aromas were a quite intense, scarcely complex, and fruity.  Taste- dry, quite fresh, quite warm, smooth, balanced, ready, and well rounded.

Coppo Barbera D'Asti 2006 13%-Camp Du Ross

 A nice red.  Visual examination, ruby color, flowing and limpid.  The aromas were quite intense, quite complex, and fruity.  We could smell plums.  Taste-dry, warm, quite smooth, quite fresh, sapid, quite balanced, the right level of tannins, young, and harmonious.

Another great lesson. Francesco Martusciello will be back next week to continue his chiaccherata.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feudi Di San Gregorio is Throwing a Party-and You're Invited


Discover Feudi's Newest Selections

Saturday, March 27, 2010, 22:00 h

An exceptional setting  for the festival of the year.

News, sounds and ideas in Italy's longest cellar.

2200: LIVE MUSIC - Lucio D'Amato, Piano - Maximum Ariano, Sax

2400: DJ SET - DJ Angelo Mazzeo

Admission: € 20

Feudi di San Gregorio - Loc Cerza Grossa, Sorbo Serpico (AV) - T.0825 986683 - prenota@feudi.it

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You can Never Have Too Much Taurasi-Città del Gusto Wine Lab, March 18

There was something different in the air last Thursday at Città del Gusto. I was there for another Wine Lab, my third. A quick look around, I noticed the usual key elements.

Hosts, journalist Paolo De Cristofaro and Raffaele Del Franco…CHECK.

Pizza King Michele Leo...CHECK.

Chefs Antonio Russo and Giovanni Pastore with their amazing menus…CHECK.

Ais Napoli Sommeliers, this time Guisy Romano and Pino Savoia….CHECK.

Panel of experts to include enologists Fortunato Sebastiano and Vincenzo Mercurio….CHECK.

Cool booklet full of facts, figures, etc so I could follow along during the wine tasting…CHECK.

Twelve wines to try…CHECK…HEY!!!

Here we go, something different about the wines. I knew they would be Taurasis….a wine made from my favorite grape, aglianico, and named after my home away from home away from home. I knew there would be 12 different wineries-Caggiano, Mastroberardino, Bocella, Colli di Lapio, Contrade di Taurasi, Di Prisco, I Favati, Il Cancelliere, Salvatore Molettieri, Michele Perillo, LuigiTecce, and Tenuta Ponte. I knew the vintage would be 2005.

What was different, then? Well, this would be a blind wine tasting, meaning we would try each wine without knowing which was which. The bottles were covered up. Paolo made us work Thursday night.

He began the evening with a brief intro on Taurasi. I love Paolo’s style and how he always has a ‘link’. The link for this Wine Lab was a comparison with the Taurasi wine and a book he read in his childhood, ‘C’era Due Volte il Barone Lamberto’ by Gianni Rodari. A popular story for those who grew up in Italia. It basically tells the story of a rich man who paid people around him to constantly say his name. He believed that this would keep him alive. His nephew, over his head in debts, invited these ‘kiss-ups’ to lunch, where he drugged them and made them sleep. The rich baron dies, but at the funeral…well he stopped there. I guess I have to get the book….He also compared Taurasi to a Brad Pitt movie where he plays Benjamin Button. You know the story, Brad gets younger as the film goes on. As if he gets a second life.

In some ways, Taurasi is like this. Getting a second life.

So onto the tasting. Paolo handed out a ‘scheda descrittiva’, basically 2 pages, 21 questions that we would have to fill out as we tried wines on our own. Questions like, ‘Which wines seem closed aromatically. Which wines have vanilla, coffe, or a toasty aroma? Which are generous, meaning have an aroma of fresh fruit, cocoa, spices? Which seem elegant? Which have a higher level of tannins? Which are smoother? Which…? And so on, and so on…

Wow. Unexpected, but challenging.

I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Clelia Romano of Colli di Lapio. Though I must admit, when she asked me which was my favorite, I was a little nervous when I gave her my answer. My ‘favorites’ are my ‘favorites’ for a wide variety of reasons….the aroma, a memory, what I ate with it, you get the picture.

I was surprised to see that one wine, produced in the same year, could have so many diverse flavors and aromas. It was interesting to learn that, once the wines were revealed, the similarities between wineries in the same small geographical zone. It was interesting to see the differences in the younger wineries as opposed to the granddaddies such as Mastroberardino and Molletieri. It was a golden opportunity to hear from the enologist (wine makers) who shared their vast knowledge and experience with an audience of 50 plus Taurasi lovers. It was also another great Wine Lab at Città del Gusto.

The next Wine Lab will look at Calabria,; a horizontal wine tasting between Gravello and Duca San Felice Riserva Librandi on the 14th of April.

Save me a seat in the front row…

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student- Lesson 2 - Off to the Vineyards

“Il vino si fa in vigna’ Wine is made in the vineyards. This is how Ais Napoli President, Tommaso Luongo opened our second Level 1 lesson last Monday, March 15th. Then he introduced us to the guest lecturer of the evening; Dotteressa Maria Sarnataro. Dr. Sarnataro is one of the best-President of Ais Cilento-Valle di Diano and National Advisor to ONAF. She began the evening with a brief historical background of how wine entered into our society…as far back as the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Sumerians all the way up to the 1860s . This is about when phylloxera (a parasite from the aphid family from America) destroyed a large number of vineyards causing many to change their rootstock to the ‘piede americano’, a root that is resistant to this parasite.

We were here to learn about the vineyards and that we did. Dottoressa Sarnataro went into great detail on topics such as the various grafting techniques, production of the barbatelle (rooted cutting), the lifecycle of the vineyard, machines used for harvesting, and the evolution of grape growing. While she spoke, a slide presentation accompanied her lesson and was quite useful as she presented the different types of of vineyards from tendone, cordone speronato, guyot, pergola trentina, to name a few.

The lesson almost over-time for the weekly wine tasting. At this point, Tommaso Luongo rejoined us to give us advice as we tasted the wines. We are still students, so Dottoressa Sarnataro reminded us that some terminology that is used in formal wine tastings, well, we just aren’t ready. Not as an insult-but the truth. We need to go one step at a time. This week, three wines from Campania.

1) Fiano  ‘DonnaLuna’ DOCG 2008, DeConcillis 13%

This was a nice Fiano and I was happy to get the chance to try one from Cilento. We noticed a light straw color, aromas of white flowers, mature fruit, warmth on our tongue.

2) Falanghina ‘Folius’ DOC 2006 Cantina del Taburno , 13%

Here, a darker straw color partly because this wine spent time in a barrique. The aromas we smelled such as vanilla back up this point. Some students smelled honey, others spices, elegant flowers. It was piacevole. As we tasted, a good balance, freschezza, morbidezza.

3) Piedirosso ‘Kerres’ IGT 2006 I Pentri 13 % (non filtered)

Our red for the evening’s color can be described as grenadine red . Aromas such as plum, spices were the responses from the class. A toasty, spice smell accounts for the time spent in the barrique. We noticed a good evolution of tannins, a dry red. We did not feel calore (warmth) but noticed a morbidezza (softness, mellowness, tenderness)

So our second lesson ended, leaving our class satisfied and eager for next week’s lesson. Stay tuned….

I would like to publicly thank our sommeliers for the evening, Luca Massimo Bolondi and Giorgio Napolitano, who served our class (now up to 60 students) with elegance and class.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tenuta Matilde Zasso...the 'Boys Next Door'

Salvatore Vicidomini and sons

Over the past few years, whenever there was a party or get together at my house, there were always two people I could call on for the wines: Francesco and Luca Vicidomini  of Tenuta Matilde Zasso.  Their wines have become a staple in my household cantina and one of my favorite Campi Flegrei wineries. Their reds include aglianico DOC, piedirosso Doc, or Excelso 14  (an aglianico DOC).  This last wine is a particular aglianico Sannio DOC, aged 6 months in stainless steel, then another 6 in the bottle, 14% alcohol content.  Available in limited edition only and has become a staple at my home. 

Tenuta Matilde Zasso has the classic Campi Flegrei inventory of whites as well ranging from falangina DOC, coda del volpe DOC and two DOCGs; Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino (!).   

A few years ago, I began bringing family and friends by the winery and they are always impressed with the size of the place as well as their cozy and comfortable wine tasting room which opens up to a patio where you can enjoy tasting their wines in nice weather.

My mom loves their falanghina and she, as well as many Americans is attracted to their Blue Naples falanghina DOC bottle that was developed to celebrate their 50th anniversary a few years ago.
Tenuta Matilde Zasso has also been the first stop of a popular ITT Friday night wine tour.  This tour is very similar to the ones that I have done in the past; a visit in the vineyards, tours of the cantina, as well as a wine tasting of 4 of their popular wines. A buffet is provided by Mariella of La Taverna dei Sapori in Monte di Procida before the bus heads to her restaurant for a complete meal.

Scenes from a recent wine tasting

Tenuta Matilde Zasso has also been present  at many wine exhibitions to include  Vinitaly, Vitignoitalia, Wine and the City, and Vomero Wine and Shop.

Tenuta Matilde Zasso
Via Vicinale la Schiana, 31 - 80078 Pozzuoli (NA)
Tel(Pbx): +39.081.8555638 - Fax: +39.081.8662605
web: www.tenutamatildezasso.it
e-mail: info@tenutamatildezasso.it

Stop by!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flavor, Culture, Tradition-A Saturday with Stefano Pagliuca and his 'Pane a Canestrella'

I met Stefano Pagliuca, owner of Antica Paneteria dei Buoni Sapori  last September at Ciao Vino.  Instantly I fell in love with his outgoing personality, his desire to keep age old traditions alive, and of course... his pizza.  Stefano invited me to visit the bakery located in Melito whenever I had the chance.  Last Saturday I took him up on it.

Pulling up with Stefano in front of his bakery (located a few blocks from his shop/enoteca) I could already smell the fresh aroma of slow cooked bread from the street.  We entered and I was immediately  impressed by not only the size, but the order and cleanliness of the opertaion.  Stefano walked me through the process of producing his pane a canestrella.  This bread is particular for several reasons.  The dough is made with lievito madre (literally, 'mother yeast) That means that each day  a portion of the dough made during the day is set aside and added to the new dough for the next day.  This produces a dough that is second to none and Stefano's family has been doing this for generations.

Stefano uses a mixture of flour including whole wheat

'lieveto madre' at work...

Another 'particular' quality to note are the little squares that are present on the finished product.  These markings are produced when the dough is left to rise overnight in the 'canestrelle' , baskets. 

'little squares'

While all of this is going on, Stefano and crew need to heat up the ovens.  Three huge ovens that get up to 300° C!!!  These ovens are lit, then when the temperature is just right, the coals are removed and the ovens are cleaned.  And when I saw clean, I mean spotless


Row by row, 85 pieces of bread dough (for a 2kg piece of bread) are lined up in the oven and slowly cooked.  About an hour later, the bread is ready. 

This continues on throughout the night and early morning until about 1,400 pieces of bread are baked.  The same cycle...heat the oven...remove the coals, clean the oven ...bake the bread.

Eating a piece of warm bread from a wood burning oven is an experience.  Stefano almost made me break my diet by making me imagine a sandwich with his bread, a nice piece of provolone and prosciutto... Almost.

Stefano's bakery also makes a wide variety of panini, pizza, and other specialties....

That is for another blog.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

E' Qui La Festa?- Sì!!! or My Tuesday in Tramonti with Tenuta San Francesco

As I parked my car in front of Tenuta San Francesco Tuesday, I could hear music, laughter...a celebration.  The weather was cloudy, windy, and rainy.  I pulled aside the plastic tarp that served as the door and stepped inside.  Ahh! "This is why I love Italy,"  I thought to myself.  I entered alone and was instantly greeted by Eva Bove, the owner.  She along with relatives and friends were over by the camino, fireplace,  preparing a meal for the 40 plus people who were to arrive that day.  The smile on her face made me happy that I braved the brutto tempo that hit the Campania region that morning.

This was a party and party we did, beginning with a great meal.  I sat down and was instantly given a plate of pancetta, salami, ricotta, and mozzarella by Elena.  She and her husband Rino (Ristorante Il Pirata, Praiano) adopted me for the day. So my plate was never empty; minestra maritata, pasta e fagioli, polenta with beans, frittata di pasta, salsiccia e friarielle. They made sure that I knew what each item was, the ingredients, how to prepare, etc.  Brava gente.

But where was Gaetano Bove, the man behind the scenes? I mean, I came to Tramonti so that I could talk to him about his winery, his wines, his reason for the celebration. The opportunity arrived between glasses of  Gaetano's finest.  I tried his Tramonti Rosato 2009, a blend of aglianco, tintore and piedirosso, 4 Spine Riserva 2006, another blend of the 'big three'.  Gaetano, however was interested in his guests opinion of his E' Iss 2007, 100% tintore, handpicked  from the best prefillossera vineyards around Tramonti (Scavata di Gete, Madonna del Carmine di Campinola, Colle Aveso di Corsano, Pecorari di Capitignano). A sneak preview, anteprima..since this wine will not be available until September.  I appreciated how he wanted our input on everything from the label, name, and of course what was inside the glass. Later, Gaetano took me for a walk through the vineyards.  An amazing sight ahead, vines dating from the 1700s. Wow!

Caffè, dessert and music carried us into the late afternoon.  As I looked around, I felt good to be in the midst of family and friends.  I made some good friends that afternoon, and I look forward to going back.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student-My first lesson with Ais Napoli

LA FIGURA DEL SOMMELIER- translated literally means 'The figure of the Sommelier'.That was the topic of Monday night's lesson.  I arrived a little late (thanks to Naples traffic and my refusal to use a GPS), but I was ready when Antonio Del Franco (President of Ais, Campania region) arrived.  Who better to welcome our class of 45 or so students into the world of Ais.  On hand as well were Tommaso Luongo(President Ais, Napoli) and Franco De Luca (Secretary, Ais Napoli). 

I happily received the 'Ais briefcase'.  Inside were three glasses which we would need for our weekly wine tastings.  Pen, notebook, and  From Vine to Wine, an italian/english glossary (thanks Manuela). I was ready to go.

I was attentive to what  Mr. Del Franco had to say and I'd like to share with you a few points that hit home.

Ais Campania President Antonio Del Franco

He listed the requirements that a sommelier must have; these include class and style, an open mind, and humility.  Humility...hmmm. I like that.  He said it would be nearly imposible for someone to know everything about every wine in the world.  We need to keep it real.

He discussed the professional requirements such as knowledge and skills, tasting technique, and communication.  Communication is particularly important because to understand wine, you just shouldn't just drink a glass of it.  You must get out to the wineries...meet the producers...walk the vineyards.  This,  Mr. Del Franco said, will help you understand the wine better.  A sommelier must have interesse e passione, interest and passion. Additional musts-tact, courtesy, a good sense of humor.  Precision, punctuality, ambition.

A brief overview of the various sommelier positions in the restaurant as well as other occupations a sommelier title could give you such as managing an enoteca (wine shop), wine bar, or a little wine consulting followed.

He encouraged us to think of 'sommelier school' as a preschool to winetasting.  We need to train as an athlete would train for any sporting event.  Degusta ogni minuta della vita-'Taste' every minute of your life. This goes for whatever we bring to our lips to eat or drink...not just wine. Three factors go hand in hand-sight (visual examination), smell (olfactory examination) and taste.

A quick introduction to the sommelier's tools ; tastevin ( the shallow silver saucer worn around the neck on a chain-can be used to check the color, odor, and flavor of wine), corkscrew, wine glasses, serving basket, carafe or pitcher, stopper, and a thermometer.

Antonio Del Franco shows us the tastevin

Sommelier and 1st level course assistant, Luca Massimo Bolondi

Then the moment of the wine tasting arrived.  This being our first lesson, the tasting was informal, so I won't include wine tasting notes this time.  We will learn in great detail the three steps to wine tasting in April ( complete schedule).  Our sommeliers poured our the following wines for us.

Franciacorta brut-Ca' del Bosco Cuveè prestige 2009 (75 % chardonnay, 15% pinot nero, 10% pinot bianco)

Donna Paola-Marino DOC 2006, Azienda Vitivinicola Paola di Mauro (50% malvasia, 35% trebbiano, 5% semilon, 10% others)

Barbera D'Asti DOC-Camp Du Rouss-Coppo 2006 (100% barbera)

Lesson over, we filled out paperwork and were on our way. 
The next lesson, Monday the 15th. 
Stay tuned...

Greg Osby at BAG-a Definite 'Must Do Again'

Hanging out with friends, listening to great music, and trying different wines was what Fabrizio Erbaggio had in mind when he helped put together last Sunday night's concert with Greg Osby at Bacoli Art Gallery.  It was a winning formula.  It was my first time at BAG so as I walked up to the 'art gallery' I was hit by the modern architecture and it how it stood out from the other buildings in the center of Bacoli's centro storico.  Inside, a finger food buffet was placed on the bar in the hallway that leads to the first floor.  Here is where we hung out and listened to Greg Osby who played on the stage below. Stefano Pagliuca was there, and he brought his pizza, of course.  Mozzarella, tomatoes, and other buffet items were in the corner. The fun part was when we tried wines.  Fabrizio had a brilliant idea.  BYOB...bring your own bottle.  In my group, there was a restaurant owner, 2 chefs, and a handful of sommeliers.  What was on hand?  Carracci from Villa Matilde , Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Kessler , a magnum of Mauro Veglio Barolo Vigneto Arborina, Bovio Barolo and my personal favorite, Dubl rosato Feudi di San Gregorio to name a few.

We've got to do this again!

Città del Gusto Napoli Wine Lab Sets its Sights on Taurasi-March 18

How can I say no to this one?

Gambero Rosso's Paolo De Cristofaro will once again be our guide as Città del Gusto focuses on Taurasi. I am sure it will be a special evening in the "G-Zone", as have been previous wine tastings (here, here, and here).  Paolo's scope is to analyze and  X-ray what is interesting  and what is going on in certain areas, subareas, grapes, and production styles. The theme of the evening is  "Irpinia, tests of  the Grande Cru" and is an event focused entirely on one of the oldest and most prestigious names of the  south- Taurasi.  Taurasi was the only DOCG in all of Central and Southern Italy until 1993. Taurasi is one of the symbols of Irpinia and Campania, and an  expression of the longevity of Aglianico. Mastroberardino has been the  name for years when discussing this wine but in recent years new players have jumped into the scene, each  bringing out more and more different characteristics of the various sub-areas, or even individual vineyards.
It will not a classical tasting, but a real laboratory experiment in which players and fans will be confronted with a horizontal blind wine tasting of twelve Taurasi, selected by Gambero Rosso.

As for the vintage, the choice fell on the controversial but fascinating 2005 vintage. We will be tatsing the  2005 Taurasi Mastroberardino, Di Prisco, Contrade Taurasi, Caggiano, Tenuta Ponte, Colli di Lapio, I Favati, Tecce, Perillo, Boccella, Molettieri, The Cancelliere. (wow!)
The tasting starts at 8pm..ish on Thursday, March 18.

For information and reservations

Città del Gusto Naples - Via Coroglio, 57/104 - Naples (Bagnoli Zone)

Tel:  eventi.na@cittadelgusto.it


The cost of each evening is € 35.00 per person (€ 30.00 per subscriber special Gambero Rosso, members Ais, Slow Food and ONAV).

Tickets may be purchased within two days of  theevent, at Città del Gusto or on the  website http://www.gamberorosso.it/

I'll see you in the front row!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The List is Out-Ais Level 1 Course Begins on the 8th!

Ok...its official, a couple of days and I will begin the Sommelier Course, 1st Level with The Association
of Italian Sommeliers in Naples, or Ais.

It became real to me when I looked their web site this afternoon and saw this announcement with the list of names of those who would be attending....Yep, mine's there. 

"Avviso ai corsisti del Corso Sommelier di Primo Livello Ais Napoli dell’8 Marzo: la lista degli ammessi

Pubblichiamo lista degli ammessi al Corso Ais di Sommelier Primo Livello in partenza l’8 Marzo all’hotel Ramada.Per info tel 320.8153647



A few weeks ago a wrote a blog with my thoughts on this important first step (here)
I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Tutto Salento...Città del Gusto Napoli takes us to Puglia

It was a windy night in Naples on Thursday, March 4th.  Inside, however, I was enjoying the calore of Puglia.

The latest edition of Citta del Gusto's Wine Lab brought us to Puglia with the help of Paolo De Cristofaro and Paolo Zaccaria of Gambero Rosso.  The star of the evening...a grape that feels at home in the heat and soil of Puglia -negroamaro.

I didn't have much backgrond knowledge on negroamaro or Puglia for that matter, but Paolo De Cristofaro solved that problem.  While our wine was being served (12...yes 12) Paolo shared with us his vast knowledge of three principle areas that he strongly believes are crucial to understand and appreciate prior to our wine tasting:

  1. Territory and climate
  2. Art and history
  3. Music and folklore

I followed along closely underlining and highlighting points he brought up about the luce, calore, vento which is particular to Salento. How cities such as Lecce are rich in baroque art and architecture. In the background, a film accompanied his discussion of the famous Notte della Taranta where women of the region dance as if possessed during a certain period of the harvest due to a spider bite, (That story alone deserves its own blog!)

SO , we know the territory, but we came to talk about wine.  Particulary two wines from two producers that proudly represent Salento-Leone De Castris and Conti Zecca.  Both wineries produce reds with negroamaro, a grape that that the ancients Greeks brought to Italy.  A grape that feels at home in the hot climate of Salento, its clay and chalky soil.  Strong, forte, and for our wines that we were to try needed un pò di aiuto per morbidere, a little help to make the wine smoother.

Our classwork for this lab, so to speak, was to taste 6 vintages (2006-2000) of Donna Lisa Leone De Castris and Nero Conti Zecca.  And taste we did, served with finger food prepared by chef Antonio Russo and pizza by Michele Leo.  During the Wine Labs, you are free to taste the wines on your own, take your own notes, express your own opinions.  In other words, while listening to the representatives from the wineries themselves (Marco Mascelloni and Piernicola Leone de Castris from Leone de Castris and Ferdinando Antonio Romano from Conti Zecca) I was able to understand where they were coming from, their stories, their batlles and victories. 

The advantage or should I say, privelege of attending a wine tasting of this sort ,when you can taste the same wines-side by side- but different vintages, is that you get the chance to see how factors such as climate and age play on a wine. 

Donna Lisa Riserva, for example (90% negroamaro, 10 % malvasia) is aged 18 months in wooden barrels.  I must admit that the 2006 offering was too strong for me at first.  The aromas, the taste spoke of a 'young' wine that needed a little more time to breathe.  In fact, a half hour later, I noticed how the wine had evolved in the glass , aromas more pleasureable, smoother taste.  A good sign for those looking for aging wines....

Nero (70% negroamaro, 30% cabernet sauvignon) is aged for 18 months in barrique and 12 months in the bottle).  Their 2004 offering gave me a sensation of comfort.  My degustazione gave me images of my fireplace, enjoying my evening winter ritual of finishing my glass of wine in front of the flames as I swirl my glass to set free the aromas  a good glass of red has to share.  Michele Leo's foccacia was the perfect pairing to accompany me on this trip down memory lane.  This glass was my 'favorite' for the evening. (Though can you really choose a favorite after tasting 12?)

Another successful wine lab.  I left Città del Gusto a little tired, but with a great desire to hop in my car for a road trip to Salento.  Maybe late spring....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Battle of Soffritto!

Place: Flumeri, a little town in Avellino known for its enormous Baronia pasta factory. 
Time: Last Sunday, all day.
 Event:  The 3rd annual Battle of Soffito di Maile organizzed by Condotta Slow Food Irpinia Colline dell'Ufita e Taurasi / Comune di Flumeri

Soffritto is a pork dish that is sauteed in oil, with peppers, onions or other ingredients depending on the local recipe and tradition.  (In Naples, for example, tomato sauce is added).
The 'battle' was between 12 communities.  Each sharing their cooking, wine and culture on a sunny Campania afternoon.  Fun..but serious.  Each community had to present their dishes to the judges.  Bragging rights were up for this one.  Great food, great wine, great fun!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the Road- Tenuta San Francesco...Tramonti, March 9th

We've been invited to a party!  The host?  Gaetano Bove of Tenuta San Francesco.
The occasion?


I SAPORI PERDUTI DELLA COSTA D'AMALFI- The lost flavors of the Amalfi Coast

The party begins at 1230 on the 9th of March at cantine Tenuta San Francesco, frazione Corsano di Tramonti.
We'll have an authentic homecooked meal with dishes from the region and get an exclusive opportunity to try the new wines that will be presented at Vinitaly 2010 in April.
For more info :

Gaetano Bove

335 6670854 or  http://www.vinitenutasanfrancesco.it/

Need directions?...here

I wrote an earlier blog which mentioned Gaetano and his wines.  See it here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Greg Osby Quintet- a Fusion of Jazz and Champagne, BAG, March 7th

Sunday night is going to be special.  Bacoli Art Gallery will host the Greg Osby Quintet for an evening of mind- blowing jazz.  Here's what his web site says about this groundbreaking musician.

Saxophonist, composer, producer and educator Greg Osby has made an indelible mark on contemporary jazz as a leader of his own ensembles and as a guest artist with other acclaimed jazz groups for the past 20 years. Highly regarded for his insightful and innovative approach to composition and performance, Osby is a shining beacon among the current generation of jazz musicians. He has earned numerous awards and critical acclaim for his recorded works and passionate live performances.

Born and reared in St. Louis, Greg Osby began his professional music career in 1975, after three years of private studies on clarinet, flute and alto saxophone. Coming from a vibrant and musical city, Osby showed an early interest in the performing arts and spent his years in secondary school with a heavy involvement in Blues and Jazz groups. In 1978 Osby furthered his musical education at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) where he majored in Jazz Studies. He continued his studies at the Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) from 1980 to 1983.

Upon relocating to New York in early 1983, Osby quickly established himself as a notable and in demand sideman for artists as varied as Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack DeJohnette, Andrew Hill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Jim Hall and Jaki Byard as well as with many ethnic and new music ensembles in the New York area.

In 1985 Osby was invited to to join Jack DeJohnette's innovative group, "Special Edition". It was as a member of this ensemble Osby was able to fine tune the more challenging aspects of his conception in an open ended, no holds barred musical situation. Says Osby, "My musical thinking for performance and composition advanced by light years as Jack was open to my input and was very encouraging in pushing me to to maintain a steady flow of experimentation. It marked a major turning point in my development as an artist." In 1987, Osby signed his first recording deal with a new German label , JMT (Jazz Music Today). With this situation, he felt that he was finally able to document life as he saw it through music. He had free creative reign to do whatever he liked. He recorded four CD titles for that label. Osby signed with Blue Note Records in 1990 and recorded fifteen outstanding recordings for that label as a leader. In 2008, Osby launched his own label, "Inner Circle Music", which serves as a platform for many of today's brightest artists. From the pulse of the streets and the language of a generation, Osby has sketched numerous musical essays set to a contemporary score using the improvisational nature of Jazz as the connecting thread.

On "9 Levels", his latest recording on Inner Circle Music, Osby presents his wares in a sextet format and is joined by special guests, Nir Felder, guitar; Adam Birnbaum, piano; Joseph Lepore, bass; Hamir Atwal, drums; and a welcome newcomer to the international jazz scene, vocalist Sara Serpa.

So, here is a great opportunity to see this amazing jazz artist in 'our own backyard'.  To get a taste of the 'states' in Naples.  Real Jazz....

Two ways to enjoy this evening.  The Bacoli Art Gallery is a club that has two levels.  If you want to hang out on the lower level and enjoy the concert with a finger food buffet, the ticket price is 12 Euro (drinks not included).  If you would prefer to chill out upstairs in the VIP section with the Ciao Vino Winerdì crowd, with champagne and a Ciao Vino buffet which will include Stefano Pagliuca's famous pizza as well as other specialties, the price is 40 Euro.
Either way, it will be amazing... I hope to see you there!

For more info or to reserve a spot, contact

 Bacoli Art Gallery -BAG
081 52 33 802 / 338 33 12 916

Piazzetta Adriano 5/6

Bacoli, Italy, 80070

or fabrizioerbaggio@libero.it    081 509 0425

The fun starts at 9 pm...ish

Vino e Caffè-A 'Must Stop Here'

There are a couple of things that you must do while in Taurasi.  One is have lunch at Agriturismo Taurasi (see an earlier blog).  The other is to stop by Oscar's Vino e Caffe for a cornetto and cappuccino.
Everyone in Taurasi  knows Oscar Santosuosso, young, friendly professional sommelier.  Everyone in Taurasi knows Vino e Caffè.  I stumbled on it a few years ago when I brought a group to visit Cantine Caggiano.  It has been a 'must stop here' ever since.  What a place!  If you stop by in the morning, you'll lose youself in  the warm aromas of cornetti, sfogliatelle e bombe.  Order a cappuccino or caffè and you can stand, sit on a stool by the bar, or relax at one of the tables inside or out.  Mid morning, more sweets such as caprese or babà.  Later throughout the day, order an apperitivo choosing from Oscar's wide selection of wines or other apperitivo drinks. Pizzette and other snacks are available as the day progresses. Often wine tastings and other special events are held there.  Vino e Caffè has two stories so they are able to host large parties. In other words, Vino e Caffè has just  about everything, served with a smile by Oscar , his mom, and sister.

Vino e Caffè is located at Via Aldo Moro, 22  Taurasi (AV)
for more info, call 3921388871

Monday, March 1, 2010

Al Campanaro-a Haven in the Heart of Taurasi's Centro Storico

When I decided to attend a dinner at Cantine Caggiano, I knew I would need a place to stay overnight.  I wanted a place in the centro storico, somehwere comfortable, clean, carino.  A friend suggested that I get in touch with Alessandro Barletta.  He is the owner of Al Campanaro, a bed and breakfast just 30 meters from the castle.  I made my reservation and on Saturday afternoon, checked into my room.

It was exactly what I wanted-no, more.  This b&b is perfect for someone who wants to feel part of the town.  My room was on the secondo piano and my balcony had a perfect view of the castello and bell tower. In the small lobby, there is plenty of reading material on the food and wines of Irpinia.  That makes sense because Alessandro, besides being the owner, is a sommelier, delegato and promoter of Go WIne Taurasi DOCG, as well as deeply involved in Slow Food and Pro Loco Taurasi.

Downstairs, below the lobby, there is an amazing cantina with an excellent selection of wines from throughout the area.  Names like Mastroberardino and Caggiano were evident as well as many others.  Next door, there is a sala degustazione (wine tasting room) where Sandro can entertain up to 20 guests with wine tastings as well as trying the areas typical products.

My room was cozy and warm.  I almost didn't want to get out of bed the next morning.  As I checked out and walked down the street, I had one thought that went through my mind......I'll be back.....