Monday, May 30, 2011

Cantine Aperte - Grotta del Sole, Quarto (Na)


Sunday May 29th was Cantine Aperte 2011. A day where participating wineries throughout Italy open their doors to the public for a look inside.  I decided to stay close to home this year by visiting the Martusciello family and their winery, Grotta del Sole in Campi Flegrei.  The weather paired perfectly with a a tour, wines, and lunch in their Falanghina vineyard.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Incontro tra le due Coste-Cilento meets Amalfi


The Campania region is an area rich in food and wine culture.  And when an opportunity comes up to taste the territory, I try to take advantage of it.  A chance came on the 21st of May, in a little town high above the Amalfi Coast...Ravello.

Hotel Rufolo in Ravello was the perfect backdrop last weekend for a trip through the Salerno province.  The hotel’s restaurant, Ristorante Sigilgaida hosted an evening entitled Incontro tra le due coste…a meeting between the two coasts; Cilento and the Amalfi Coast.  A lavish buffet packed with prodotti tipici was provided by Caseificio Barlotti-Paestum, Masseria Maida-Capaccio, Consorzo Alba-Ogliastro Cilento, Azienda Agricola Ferrante Michele-Controne, and Caseificio Staiana-Ravello. Then a menu rich using the products of the area Sfogliatina ai carciofi di Paestum con fonduta di caciocavallo di Ravello, Scialatielli al profumo di rosmarino con fagiolo di Controne e gamberi di Praiano, Sfoflie di pesce bandiera della costa d’Amalfi con buffalo di Paestum e salsa di peperone corno.  A quick pause with a refreshing sorbetto allo sfusato amalfitana con mentuccia di campo to clean the palate, and our trip continues.   Tocchetti du bufala stufata con fave novella e scaglie di caprino di Tramonti.  And for dessert? Souffle’ ghiacciato alla ricotta di bufala con noci pralinate e colata di cilegie con gallette di nocciole.  Throughout the evening,  a vast selection of wines from Azienda Agricola S. Salvatore- , Viticoltori De Conciliis, Luigi Maffini, Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Apicella, Azienda Agricola S. Francesco, Cantine Marisa Cuomo, Casa vinicola Ettore Sammarco, and Le vigne di Raito.  An excellent opportunity to practice my wine pairing ‘skills’ and try wines that I was unfamiliar with. Many of the producers were on hand so I was able to ask questions about their vineyards, wine making techniques,   as well as give my compliments on the wines that I particularly enjoyed. 

Una bella serata...


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sottozone...Fiano...Joaquin

Late Monday afternoon....1700 ish, May 23, 2011.Vitignoitalia. I was sitting in the front row in Sala Degustazione C of Castel dell’Ovo in Mergellina, Naples, waiting for a Fiano wine tasting to begin. But in reality, for me, this tasting had already begun. It began last year, June 5th to be exact, during Anteprima Irpinia. It was there where I met Raffaele Pagano, Joaquin, for the first time in a vineyard in Lapio (Av) as he poured me a glass of his Fiano.

But back to Napoli…back to the castle…back to the front row. Pagano was about to talk about his Fiano…two Fiano di Avellinos actually, that he has experimented with over the years. He used a word; Sottozone…one that has been used often in Irpinia. A term that basically defines a wine’s origins in respect to where the vineyard is located, down to the hectre. A spotlight on the territory. And according to Pagano, Irpinia is perfect for these types of experiments. Why? Each area is different in terms of climate, altitude, soil composition, sun exposition, etc., etc, etc,

So Pagano reintroduced me to Joaquin. Joaquin. A winery that loves to try something different. His cantina is practically a laboratory…Every year is different, so why not a different wine? Montofalcione…sottozone numero uno, was where Pagano started. Vino della Stella Fiano di Avellino 2009 DOCG. A wine with a beautiful golden color, thanks to maceration with the grape skins. Aromas were not the usual for a Fiano from Lapio, at least in my opinion…here was a nice note of minerality, salinity, closely followed by light fruit. Acidity, communicator/journalist Giulia Cannada Bartoli mentioned. Flavorful…It is a wine that doesn’t bore you. It can be drunk on its own.

Camparo…another area, sottozone, to be examined. And this would be looked at through a golden glass of JQN 203Fiano di Avellino 2007 IGT. Joaquin decided that for this wine, they would let it spend some time in wooden barrels. But not French oak. Acacia. A choice that Joaquin believed would not invade, but caress. Many believed that it gave it a something different, diversa. AIS Campania President, Nicoletta Gargiulia described aromas of honey, star anise. To the palate it was fresh, dry, warm, and persistent. That this wine was flavorful…with a good acidity.

Throughout the tasting, the conversation went from technical to casual. It was almost as if we weren’t at a formal a ‘wine tasting’ but in a living room, around a dinner table, or walking through the vineyards. Like when I first met Pagano almost a year ago. Tasting a wine…tasting a territory. And as we got up to leave, I still felt that this tasting wasn’t over. I’m not finished with Joaquin, yet.
I’ve still a lot to learn about sottozone…Fiano…and Joaquin…

Italian Version


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Aperitivo on the Beach...Ristorante Marina Grande, Amalfi (Sa)

An aperitivo on the beach.  That's what I wanted.  But not just any beach...I wanted Amalfi.  And not just any lido...Ristorante Marine Grande.  A corner table overlooking the beach and the sea was the perfect spot to have a cocktail and conversation with owner Gianpaolo Esposito and Chef Umberto De Martino.

 I soon learned that Marina Grande is one of the oldest lidos in Italy, dating back to 1918.  They moved in 1935, and opened up their restaurant in the 1950s. Gianpaolo served me a cocktail, Apois, which I sipped while looking over the menu and the wine list.  A menu rich in seafood, home made pastas,including a tagliatelle made with 33 egg yolks, and  homemade desserts.  A wine list 300 strong- heavy in the Campania region.

I was undecided on what I wanted to try so Chef De Martino chose for me.   A tuna fillet in poppy-seed crust with panzarella (bread salad) and buffalo stracciatella. Then peas in three textures with fresh cow cheese, orange and marinated prawns.  These I enjoyed while Espsoito continued to talk about Marina Grande.  How during the day, you can relax on their beach, enjoy a light lunch or a pizza at their second restaurant downstairs.  Several evenings a week they organize special events such as jazz nights and live music.

Perfect for the summer.
Perfect for an aperitivo on the beach....

Ristorante Marine Grande
Viale della Regione, 4
84011 Amalfi (Sa)
089 871129

Italian Version



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vineyard Hopping - Cesinali (Av) - Cantina Del Barone

Springtime in Cesilnali (Av).  I followed wine maker Luigi Sarno on a stroll through his family’s vineyards. Cantina del Barone. It was late afternoon…not quite dusk. The sun shone lightly and playfully. Not too brightly, so I could get a good look up close at this special time of year in a grapevine’s life-the fioritura, blooming period. The period when there is a beautiful contrast between the brown vines and the young green leaves and tiny grapes. I stopped at one vine in particular. One that seemed to tower above the rest. It was more like a tree than a grape vine. That one? Over a hundred years old, Luigi mentioned.

Wow..my silent response…

We continued walking, past the peacock, past the chicken coop, to the path that led to the house. A path that practically divides the Sarno’s vineyards into two sections. On one side, vineyards that were planted in 1987. Nearly 2 hectares of vineyards planted in rows of 2m x 2 m with sun exposure east/west. With these grapes, we make our Fiano di Avellino DOCG, Sarno mentioned. A wine that the family has been bottling since 1998.

But over here, here is a different story…
Over here was a piece of the Sarno’s property known as particella 928. A five sided polygon piece of territory that takes up about ½ hectare. This part of the vineyard was planted by Luigi in 2001. But Luigi wanted to try something different. He altered the position of the grapevines. These rows were facing north/south to get more out of the sun that hits Cesinali during the day. Luigi pointed out the slight difference in the size of the leaves on these vines in respect to the ones I had seen earlier. Then, another key point…To get the most out of his vines, he has the rows set up 2 ½ m apart and 1 ½ m between each plant. One more thing, Karen…Luigi points down so that I can see the bottom of the vine. The part where the vine hits the dirt. It was here that I could see that some of the area around the vine had been cleared away, exposing the roots. Why?...These top roots would be cut off. That way, the older, deeper ones will continue to dig deeper into the earth in search of moisture…in search of rich minerals in the clayey, pebbly soil.

At this point, Angelo Muto caught up with us. It was time to go to the cantina , see what was going on there, and taste a couple of wines. Though our day was focused on Fiano, Cantina del Barone in the past produced Aglianico, Taurasi, and even Greco di Tufo.

That was then, this is now…we headed towards the first vat.  The vat that held Barone’s 2010 Particella 928. Wine produced from the small vineyard that I had seen a short time earlier. The three of us examined a glass of wine which was still maturing on the lees. Sarno pointed out the aroma of carbon dioxide present-important since this was protecting the wine from oxidation. A few more weeks and it will be racked, filtered and bottled. 5,000 bottles of Particella 928 DOCG. Luigi showed me two versions of the label…each with a design of the 5 sided polygon shaped vineyard.

The next vat was their base Fiano. This vat had already been filtered and did not mature on the lees as the previous wine. So this glass had a ‘cleaner’ nose. Slowly fruit aromas began to open up…a slight touch of hazelnut. Almost ready, Luigi said to Angelo and I…and I believe to himself as well.

It was starting to get late, I had a long ride home. Luigi was locking up the cantina and noticed my gaze at a vine that was growing through a hole in a nearby concrete wall.

Karen, this is a Sciascinoso vine. He had noticed it a few years ago growing out of that wall. He gave it a little direction, every now and then guiding it upwards until it had finally found its own way and flourished on its own.

I wondered if Luigi noticed the similarities between that vine and his winery. His winery, that over the years, he has been guiding and directing upwards. How it is flourishing in the eyes of the press and wine enthusiasts alike.

Probably not…

Cantina Del Barone
Via Nocelleto, 21
Cesinali (Av)
0825 666751

Italian Version


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Taste of Basilicata with Chef Francesco Rizzuti of Antica Osteria Marconi

gnocchetto di seppie e calamari

I stepped out of Campania for a awhile and headed for one of its next door neighbors, Basilicata.  I had a desire to try some specialties from a region that I was unfamiliar with.  From their wines to their prodotti tipici. A trip through the territory, all in the comfort of a corner table at Antica Osteria Marconi in Potenza. I had the perfect guide-Chef Francesco Rizzzuti.  So after a quick chit chat, a glass of Basilicata Moscato IGT 2009 from Terre di Orazio,  Chef Rizzuti went into the kitchen to prepare the 'tour'.

He arrived with a beautiful dish that he calls gnocchetto di seppie and calamari-a little squid and cuttlefish dumpling, lightly fried and resting on a creamed pea sauce. He slowly poured just the right amount of chicken broth on top.  His way of saying Welcome to Basilicata, Karen.  Light, delicate...the theme for the day.  A theme which continued when he presented his next dish Orto, which in Italian means vegetable garden. a plate of fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, and peas to name a few.  Spring was evident here with with  tiny yellow flower petals sprinkled on top.

My next wine was brought to the table-this time an Aglianico. L’Atto Cantine Del Notaio 2009 IGT. We continued along on our journey through Basilicata with a dish that I had been dying to try after publishing the recipe some time ago. Acquasale. On this plate sat a simple cube of day old bread and onions. This cube rested peacefully under a smooth turnip sauce. And sitting on top, a poached egg. All waiting to be showered with an onion broth prepared by the chef. A small dish of dried peppers was set on the table. Peperoni di Senise Cruschi –a classic. Beautiful sweet red peppers that had been dried,  then lightly fried to make them crunchy, croccante. Peppers that were delicious when added to the dish, tasty when eaten alone as well.
Next, home made pasta-strascinati with asparagus, tiny diced guanciale, with a creamed fennel sauce. The chef added egg bottarga, to give this plate that extra boost, but once again, keeping it fresh…keeping it light, leggero. Candele con lamb soffritto was my second pasta assaggio, or taste, of the area. I had had soffritto before, but made with pork innards. Chef Rizzuti said that in Potenza, lamb can also be used. The pasta sauce, then, was a combination of lamb innards gently sauteed in a tomato sauce and topped with pieces of diced lamb. Once again, that crispy-crunchy sensation as I ate each bite. Cacciocavao podolico cheese was   grated on top.

I was really enjoying myself as each plate was brought to the table. The colors, the aromas, the flavors, the use of fresh local products in season. Such as a tiny taste of roasted pork alongside a 'smashed' potato topped with olio di brace. Underneath-essence of Senise peppers. Another 'second': a cheese plate with cacciocavallo podolico and two pecorino cheeses, one aged a little long than the other.  I found a small cherry in the middle of the plate.  It wasn't just a cherry, though.  It was a mostardo di cilegio. A spicy, piccante condiment.

Time for another Moscato-this time in the form of a dessert wine. Ambra Moscato IGT 2008 from Tenuta Eleano. The perfect pairing for my semifreddo with fresh berries. The perfect pairing for my chiacchierata, chat, with the chef. To ask him questions about the dishes, their histories, the products. To satisfy my curiosities on the how certain dishes were prepared, the ingredients, his techniques. And of course, to ask for a few more recipes on this region that has more than gotten my interest, but won over my palate as well.

Bella la Basilicata

Antica Osteria Marconi
Via Marconi 233
85100 Potenza
0971 56900
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch only on Sunday


Italian Version


Monday, May 16, 2011

Vineyard Hopping- Tufo (Av) - Cantine Dell'Angelo



Angelo Muto (right) with Luigi Sarno
Tractor or jeep?
The best way to tour Angelo’s vineyards is with a tractor or a jeep...that’s what enologist Luigi Sarno told me on our way to Tufo. Which would you prefer?…Angelo Muto, Cantine dell’Angelo, was on the phone with Luigi…waiting for my answer.

Jeep…couldn’t see the three of us on one tractor. I thought. So Luigi and I met up with Angelo, and after a stop for something fresh to drink, we were on our way. Vineyard Hopping -Extreme Edition through Greco di Tufo DOCG country.

I soon saw how the jeep came in handy, driving along as paved roads became dirt roads, as dirt roads became grassy paths. Paths barely wide enough for our jeep to pass. We zig-zagged through the vineyards-an up close and personal look, every now and then stopping, chatting, discussing. It was important to Angelo and Luigi that I understood the territory…That I got a chance to see various vineyards throughout this small, 6 sq km community of Tufo.

Patches of vineyards are splattered throughout the countryside. A piece here, a bit there, belonging to a number of different wine producers. Producers who understood that if you want to produce Greco…this is the place to be. A territory dripping in minerals…rich in sulfur. Sulfur that gives Angelo’s wines that intense aroma…that dry, fresh, flavorful taste.

After awhile, Angelo pulled up to an iron gate. We stepped inside the grounds of an abandoned sulfur mine founded in 1866. It was here where Francesco Di Marzo discovered that this part of Tufo would be crucial for the development of this community. Sulfur - as far down as 250 meters. And there was a light smell of sulfur in the air…pieces of sulfur rock sprinkled on top of the soil. We stepped through the weeds as Angelo spoke of the history of Tufo…how this part of Irpinia was like no other…and once again pointed out how this special terrain was crucial to the wine that he produced.

Back in the jeep. The ride became more extreme –we only got stuck in the mud once. Rain earlier in the week had made many vineyards in the area unreachable…impossible to enter into. We were headed to Angelo’s vineyard that practically sat on top of the mine that I had seen earlier. Angelo pointed out how this vineyard was particularly rocky, he picked up large stones and tossed them aside. Stones that filled up the soil-stones that were the soil Once again, that light note of minerality in the air.

From this view point, you practically see the entire Greco territory. Springtime in Irpinia. The grapevines beginning to bud. Vines where even insects, butterflies, and birds felt comfortable. I was beginning to appreciate the challenges of having a vineyard in this part of the country presented. How it was necessary to a do a large majority of the cultivation by hand…impossible with a machine. A few minutes of reflection…then back in the jeep, off to the cantina.

Cantine dell’Angelo. The Muto family has been growing grapes for three generations, and like many in Irpinia, had been selling them to other wineries. Their first year that they bottled their own wines for sale, however, was in 2007. They make one wine and one wine only-Greco di Tufo. That is what the territory calls for-other grapes just don’t perform as well, Angelo shared. Luigi agreed and at this point took over the tour and talked to me about the wine making process. He told me that the grapes are pressed softly, with the stems, to give that light touch of tannins. Natural tannins that he did not feel the need to take out only to add back in later.  We tried a glass of the 2010 vintage that was still in the stainless steel vat. It should be in the bottle in a few weeks…on the shelves in a few months. Over a glass of 2010, I noticed a light touch of that minerality that had followed me throughout the day…then slight aromas of light fruit such as pears. A nice acidity…

Angelo looked pleased. Pleased, as over light conversation, our glasses, filled with this amazingly sapid wine, this beautiful straw colored liquid, evolved in our glasses. Pleased as he expressed that this vintage may give him more satisfaction than the previous year. Pleased as another long day in the vineyards-his vineyards- was fruitful and productive. I felt pleased as well. Pleased with my extreme day and that I had the chance to share it with Angelo and Luigi in Tufo.

Cantine dell’Angelo
via Santa Lucia 32.
Tufo (Av)
Tel. 0825.998073
email: info@cantinedellangelo.com
http://www.cantinedellangelo.com/

Italian Version


Monday, May 9, 2011

Saturday...Mirabella Golf Club, Mirabella Eclano (Av)

Springtime had hit Irpinia that Saturday, and hit hard. Spectacular sunshine paired perfectly with the stunning scenery. An ordinary Saturday. Well, it may have started off that way. Autostrade A16Benevento exit…direction Taurasi. But the ordinary turned extraordinary when I turned left at a little town called Calore and headed towards Mirabella Eclano (Av). 5 minutes later, I arrived at a little piece of paradise. A piece of paradise called Radici Resort, home of the Mirabella Golf Club. And there waiting for me with the ‘keys’ to this part of Irpinia was Piero Mastroberardino, President of Mastroberardino Winery.

The best way to tour Mastroberardino’s 9 hole, 31 par golf course is in a golf cart. So we were off on a tour that led us around a challenging course –hole #2 is particularly tricky, Piero pointed out. A course that he designed himself. A course that hugs Mastroberardino’s Aglianico and Falanghina vineyards and is nestled between Ravece olive groves. There’s a small lake with a tiny waterfall. There’s a stream that silently and leisurely flows under small wooden bridges. Green rolling hills, green perfectly trimmed bushes, and green spring leaves on the trees that stand tall and proud.

Every now and then Piero stopped the cart so that I could take a few pictures. I couldn’t help but appreciate the fresh air…the silence. Continuing our drive, we passed other golfers who knew this side of paradise well since it opened up in 2008. An oasis that contained more than just 9 holes, as I quickly discovered as we pulled up to the back of the club house. There I came across a crystal clear heated swimming pool with light and dark blue mosaic tiles. A small pool surrounded by lounge chairs perfect for sun bathing-perfect for relaxing.

And speaking of relaxing. The club houses hosts a small spa complete with a Turkish sauna and hot tub. Then there is the club house. I took a look around. Colorful and comfortable. A pool table in the back. Fireplace. Tables and chairs to play cards or chat with friends. A piano. Shelves full of magazines and books, including Piero’s  newly released novel-Umano errare. The walls held on to artwork that included large colorful oil paintings as well as small framed sketches by Piero of his family, friends, and pets.

The club house holds a small restaurant for its members and guests, and since lunch time was approaching, we decided to unwind on the terrace and have a quick bocconcino, a bite. A light lunch outside in the warm Irpinian sunshine, with a view of a magnificent mulberry tree. The mulberry tree that is proudly displayed on the bottles of their Morabianca Falanghina DOC. A lunch that included baccalà with black truffles and a light orange sauce. A caprese salad which I could not help but drizzle a little of their Solèyon olive oil made with olives from the very trees that I saw earlier that day. Grilled chicken and eggplant rounded out my meal paired with their Falanghina Sannio DOC 2010 and Lacrimarosa Campana IGT Rosé 2010.

I could get used to this, I thought to myself. At least for a weekend. There are rooms upstairs in the club house. There are other rooms up the hill in the Radici Resort which also has another restaurant, Morabianca. There’s  also the Wine Cellar, Mastroberardino’s wine bar which is open on Saturday evenings.

All I need is another spectacular sunny day. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try my hand at a few holes, with the help of their golf instructor.

Or maybe I’ll just hit a few hundred balls on the driving range.

Or lie on a deck chair next to the pool with a book or a sketch pad.

Or relax-and basta.

In this little piece of paradise called Mirabella Golf Course.

Radici Resort
Contrada Corpo di Cristo
Mirabella Eclano (Av)
0825 431293

http://www.mirabellagolfclub.com/
0825 431293

Italian Version


Friday, May 6, 2011

VitignoItalia 2011, May 22-24th Castel Dell'Ovo, Naples


The Seventh Edition of VitignoItalia will be held at the beautiful medieval castele, Castel Dell'Ovo, May 22nd-May 24th in Naples. Three days of wine tastings, seminars, cooking demonstrations, an much, much more...

For more information, go to their web site at www.vitignoitalia.it

See you there!

Monday, May 2, 2011

An Ancient Corner of Castel Campagnano...Where Reds Go to Rest...

Castel Campagnano. A small community in the Caserta Province. With a small centro storico. With an immaculate piazza that houses the town hall. And a cantina that dates back to the 4th century.
A cantina that was rediscovered and acquired sometime ago by Manuela Piancastelli and Peppe Mancini from Terre del Principe. And what a discovery. Because underneath, 15 meters deep down, another surprise. An area used for wine making and storing wine dating back to the 10th century. Manuela and Peppe believed that this area…with a constant temperature of 10° C and a humidity level of around 75% would be the perfect place for their reds. Last spring they began to move their bottles and over 100 barriques to this little underground resting place.

And on Sunday, May 1st, they added another chapter to their winery’s history by inviting friends to their share in their excitement. As medieval music lightly played, Manuela and Peppe were joined by their wine maker Prof. Luigi Moio. Moio, who explained the importance of this haven for their wines. How important it was to have this constant year round temperature. Variances in temperatures can destroy a wine, he explained. A wine that is a living thing. How wines don’t age…but are being refined…are resting.

A look around at the tufo stoned walls, it was hard not to notice the markings made by hand made tools, the touch of moisture on the walls and stairs. Looking up to the high ceilings, one could almost imagine what went on many many years ago. One could think back to the dangers of fermenting wine underground. Dangers that Luigi Moio mentioned in his brief presentation. Dangers that included death due to the fumes given off.

But there was no danger that day. And as we headed back up into the sunshine, we were led to a courtyard. A courtyard full of friends. Full of refreshments such as Terre del Principe’s rosè, pizza, mozzarella, and conciato romano. But most notably, a courtyard full of well wishes for Terre del Principe and their new old cantina.

Italian Version


Behind the Shelves: Enoteca La Botte (Ce)

I turned right at the Caserta north exit. I should have turned left. So, when I did arrive, I was 15 minutes behind my schedule. I had an informal appointment with Vincenzo Ricciardi. I hadn't seen Vincenzo in several weeks when he taught our II level sommelier class on the Campania Region. Vincenzo Ricciardi, 30 + years of professional sommelier experience including Delegate of Ais Caserta, President of the Campania Region, and Ais National Vice President. Vincenzo Ricciardi, owner of Enoteca La Botte .

I’m not sure what hit me first when I walked into Via Nazionale Appia 166; the incredibly high ceilings with chandeliers dangling…or the aromas of roast beef coming from the courtyard to the right. I entered, walked past the chocolates, and began to eye the international wines section. I was there for awhile, looking at labels, trying to recall the grape varieties that I have been studying for the past 3 months, when I heard a familiar voice. I turned, and saw a familiar face and familiar smile. Vincenzo. Straight from the kitchen where he had been preparing for that evening’s III level sommelier course for Ais Caserta.

You have the classes here? I asked…Yes, tonight we’ll be talking about wine and food pairing so meat and potatoes is on the menu…let me show you where.

And so my time with Ricciardi began. Directly to the back of the enoteca. Back where his classroom was set up for that evening’s lesson, wooden tables, wooden chairs. A classroom housed in an area enveloped in Roman arches that silently reminds you how far back Italian winemaking history goes. Bottles, everywhere…huge bottles.

Vincenzo began opening doors to back rooms, showing me boxes and boxes of wines from all over. He talked to me about his plans to renovate…to expand his wine tasting area…open up a wine bar. Another door, where his older vintages were. Bottles dating back to who knows when...on shelves, in drawers, many lightly clothed in dust. Bottles that were gifts…signed by the winemaker...bottles that he had acquired over his long career as a wine enthusiast.

We quickly walked through the different regions of Italy, every now and then stopping to chat about a particular wine… Not only interesting to note the wide variety of producers, but also a variety of vintages available. Some I knew…many I didn’t…several that I wanted to try.

It was time to try…but not wine, cheese. Ricciardi brought me to another section of his enoteca. A section which hosts a large selection of prodotti tipici…from cheeses, salamis, prosciutto, pastas, olive oils, etc. etc. etc.

Karen, Vieni a assaggià…Come and taste. A provolone from Formia that had been aged in a grotta (underground cave), a salami from Tuscany that practically melted in my mouth, and a guanciale from Venticano were just some of the specialties that I shared with Vincenzo that evening.

I looked at my watch, it was almost 8 pm. Had I been here for nearly 2 hours already? The enoteca was filling up with fellow sommelier students. Customers were waiting for Vincenzo as well. Customers, friends, and students, who, like me, were caught up in the enthusiasm that Ricciardi has not only for wine, for food, but for life as well.

I took a few more minutes to walk around by myself, to take a few pictures, to study the labels. To think about the questions that I asked, to regret the ones I didn’t get a chance to ask. But to mentally schedule one, no, several more visits to Enoteca La Botte.

But this time I’ll turn left at the Caserta North exit, not right.

Enoteca La Botte
Via Nazionale Appia 166/180
81022 Casagiove (Ce)
0823 494040

Italian Version