Sunday, July 28, 2013

Diary of a Sommelier Student - Snapshot of a Territory - La Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei

After 3 years ish of Vineyard Hopping, I wanted to try something new...a little different. A way to combine my love of photography and wine live, under one roof.  A way to share my experiences in the vineyards with fellow wine enthusiasts.  A snapshot of a territory, so to speak...
A month or so ago, after a relaxing afternoon on the beach with a few wine producers  the idea came to me. Why not a wine tasting/photo exhibit/intimate get together with amici who wanted to dig deeper into the territory.  The territory of Campi Flegei.
Four wineries...four producers, who have played a crucial part in my growth as a blogger and eventually a sommelier, were more than happy to participate in this adventure...La Sibilla, Grotta del Sole, Cantine Astroni, and Azienda Agricola Agnanum.  As the date of the tasting approached, our initial intent to share four wines grew, as well as our enthusiasm.  On my part, I decided to visit all four wineries again to take new photos of a diverse territory that never ceases to amaze me.  Four wineries within   15/20 minutes of each other.  Various training systems, altitudes, soil, and philosophies.  Four wineries who were willing once again, to answer my questions, satisfy my curiosities, and when necessary, allow me time alone in their vineyards/wineries to hang out, feel at home.
Allora, 24 July, a sold out tasting, the first tasting held at La Sibilla's  newly renovated sala di deguastazione.  A room full of amici helped to melt away my nerves as I introduced myself, the wineries, and the wines. In reality, I didn't need to say much because by my side were  my 4 amici/winemakers;.Vincenzo di Meo (La Sibilla), Francesco Martusciello, Jr (Grotta Del Sole), Gerardo Vernazzaro (Gerry) (Cantine Astroni)  and Raffaele Moccia (Agnanum). Four friends who I couldn't help but share a memory or two of how we met, what we have shared together over the years, etc, etc, etc...
Francesco Martusciello Jr and Gerardo Vernazzaro
Time to pour the wines..beginning with Colle Imperatrice 2012, Cantine Astroni.  Gerry spoke about this annata calda while I took a few notes, observed that at that particular moment shared a particular salinity, an interesting minerality. I  thought back to my various visits.
Raffaele then presented his Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei 2011.  A golden yellow color thanks to his later harvest (October).  His territory, his moonlike soil, his snapshot handed us all a wine that at that particular moment, in my opinion was smooth, pleasant with a nice long finish.
Francesco presented his Coste di Cuma 2011 from the vineyards that sit next to the family home in Monteruscello.  This riserva spent 6 months in a wooden barrique, just enough time to give the Martusciello family what they were looking for at that moment, for that vintage year.  We discussed how it was not easy to play with legno with whites that are so delicate, so southern.  My snapshot at that moment shared a little bit of floral aromas which paired nicely with the salinity that hit my palate.
Vincenzo Di Meo
Vincenzo, host of the evening, was then ready to present his Cruna Delago 2011.  His family's wine, his family's cru with from the family's vineyard Cruna del Lago which surrounds the family's winery.  A wine which, at that moment. expressed the minerality of a a wine whose roots derive from a vineyard which faces Lago Fusaro...which enjoys the salty sea breezes of La Sibilla's slice of Campi Flegrei.
Then...then it was time for, as Vincenzo put it, the degustazione clandestina...wines that were added to the wine list as our enthusiasm and party mood grew over the course of the previous weeks...the dopo festival...the after party.
Beginning with a world premiere of Agnanum's Falanghina 2012, straight from the stainless steel vat.  Moccia explained that this wine wasn't ready, hadn't been filtered, hadn't rested in the bottle. In fact it wouldn't be available to the public until October ish... This snapshot proved promising...we will wait (im)patiently. :-) Trying this wine I couldn't help but think back to November when I visited Moccia in his winery as he decanted this wine.
Then an exclusive opportunity to try Martusciello's Coste Di Cuma 2007.  I couldn't help but get emotional when Francesco shared that he brought 3 bottles of the winery's remaining 18 bottles just for this snapshot.  A snaphot that showed us all that this wine, despite its age, still had an interesting acidity.  A sure sign of potential for ageing in the future.  And a myth buster for those who still believe that Falanghina should be drunk young, within a year of the harvest. And, for the record, it evolved nicely  in the glass as the evening went on, as the temperature in the glass elevated.
Gerry was to present yet a different interpretation of Falanghina.  Strione 2009.  A wine that he's been working on for the past few years at Astroni (the first back in 2006).  A Falanghina that macerated with the grape skins.  One that glowed in the glass.  Elegant on the palate.
Vincenzo then shared his Domus Guilii 2009, a Falanghina which macerated for 5 months with the grape skins, aged on the lees.  A bellisimo goldon yellow which shared spicy aromas...
Raffaele Moccia and Francesco Martusciello, Jr
One more wine.  Moccia with his Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei 2003.  Another treat, since this wine is unavailable in his winery.  The perfect wine to wind up the degstazione.  A Falanghina, despite it's age, still had an aroma esaggerata...mature, but not too much.  Sapid on the palate.  Are we sure that it was 10 years old?  I smiled inside, thinking back to Moccia's challenges in the vineyard.
I thought about all four wineries.  Four different wineries, who for this evening, shared with me a snapshot of a territory that I have called home for 20 years.  Each  with a desire to share their territory in a casual environment, light and easy, to chat over a buffet in the garden where my photos were displayed.  A glass or two of spumante (Falanghina, of course). A moment or two to appreciate and begin to understand the territory.

A snapshot of a territory...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quarto- One of Napoli's Outspots

I've always been a girl from the suburbs.  And though I  live near Napoli,  one of southern Italy's bustling metropolises, I'm glad that there are some excellent options in the burbs.  In other words, when I want to go out I don't have to go in, so to speak.
One of those options is Quarto, 11 km ish northwest of Naples.  Uno due tre...quarto. :-)
Home to the montagna spaccata.  Home to my son's favorite video game store.  And home to one, two, three...four outspots that are definitely in.

Uno:   SUD Ristorante
Quarto's pride and joy.  Awarded a Michelin star in 2011 and run by Chef Marianna Vitale  and Pino Esposito  who is in charge of the dining room and cantina .  This outspot is tucked away off of one of Quarto's busiest streets.  But once you sit down at one of the tables in this sleek/modern black and white restaurant, you forget about the traffic for awhile and relax with a glass of wine (or champagne :-) ) while tasting one of Vitale's specialties.

Due:  Toto' Sapori Pizzeria
There's pizza...and then there's pizza.  After years of hard work, Salvatore Santucci's family operated pizzeria has become one the not to miss outspots in the Naples area.   If you like your pizza crust soft and airy topped with high quality toppings, then this is a stop for you.  Though a popular spot for take away, there are several tables on the patio in front of the pizzeria where you can sit down and enjoy the classic pasta fritta or other appetizers while waiting for a piping hot pizza.

Tre:  Grotte del Sole
Two of the areas most popular wineries have their cantinas here.  Grotte del Sole is one of them.  This winery, run by the Martusciello family makes not only Campi Flegei favorites such as Falanghina and Piedirosso, it also makes one of the most interesting spumante metedo classicos I have ever tasted.  Asprinio di Aversa.

Quattro:  Quartum Store
Quartum Cantine Di Criscio had a cool idea to open  up one of the most interesting little secrets in the area.  An outspot that has definitely become in.  Attached to the winery, they have a small shop where you can not only purchase their wines, but some of the regions top products such as tomato sauces, olive oils and preserves.  It has also become one of the places to hold wine tastings with popular Campania chefs and pizza makers sharing their expertise and dishes as well.

So, what are you waiting for?  Let's go out...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Snapshot of a Territory -La Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei

It seemed only natural.  After three years of wine tasting and Vineyard Hopping, why shouldn't I begin a new series of wine tastings focusing on the wineries and vineyards that I have visited over the years...

And so, here it is.  In the heart of the summer, in the center of Campi Flegrei.   A wine tasting for wine lovers. Four wineries from the Campi Flegrei area will share their interpretations of the territory in a glass of Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei.
A new series of snapshots featuring the wineries of the evening.will also be on display as part of my first photography exhibit.

The Wineries/The Wines
La Sibilla : Cruna del Lago 2011
Cantina Grotte del Sole : Coste di Cuma 2011
Az. Agricola Agnanum : Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei 2011 
Cantine Astroni: Colle Imperatrice Campi Flegrei DOC 2012 

The first snapshot will be on Wednesday 24 July at  8 pm at Cantina La Sibilla in Bacoli (Na).

Cost of participation is 15 Euro. Seats are limited. Reservations necessary and can be made via email

A small buffet will follow as long as a few surprises...