Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vineyard Hopping, Boscotrecase (Na), Az. Agricola Sorrentino

A suggestion from a chef friend of mine and a glass of wine in one of Napoli's top pizzerias that ignited that spark  inside and led me towards Mt Vesuvius one late November morning. It led me to Boscotrecase, a small town in the shadow of the sleeping volcano, a stones throw from the ancient ruins of Pompeii.
It led me to a visit to the vineyards of Azienda Agricola Sorrentino.
Upon arrival, I took a brief glance at the colorful panorama that surrounds the winery's  restaurant, reception area and tasting rooms.  Breathtakingly beautiful on that  warm yet foggy fall morning. A light drizzle did not dissuade me from heading towards my appointment with Maria Paola Sorrentino who happily showed me around the vineyards as she shared with me the story of her family's winery.
Maria Paola Sorrentino
 A story which began with her grandmother who, though a city girl, fell in love with a small piece of land.  Fell in love with agriculture, wine, and the contandina way of life.  Her grandmother who ignited a spark herself while working a small piece of land which over the years has expanded into nearly 75 acres of vineyards - the largest in the area.
The light drizzle ceased for awhile as we stopped in one of the piedirosso vineyards.  Grapes from this particular vineyard (along with aglianico) are used to help produce the family's  red wine version of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC.  Although the harvest had been completed nearly a month earlier, there will still leaves adorning the vines.  There were even a few bunches of grapes left behind for wine tourists curious to see what a piedirosso grape looks like.

Each step led from one story to another.  Like as when we passed under a trellis of vines with one in particular.  A piedirosso vine that was over one hundred years old.  Th only one on the property that had withstood the last volcanic eruption back in 1944.

Or when she pointed out what seemed like little tombstones, but where really boundary stones which marked the lines between the various pieces of property.

Under this trellis was the perfect place for the family to plant tomatoes.  In fact, the property also grows vegetables like eggplant and zucchini which are used in a variety of recipes in their restaurant. Continuing our passeggiata, we even ran into Zio Antonio, an expert mushroom hunter.  A perfect time for me to join in on the hunt...
and bingo!

There was plenty to see in the family vineyards.  Coda di volpe and falanghina for example.  

A museum in progress complete with farming tools, antiques, copper pots and pans, etc etc.

It was time to head back towards the restaurant/tasting room (the actual cantina is a few kilometers away) to meet up with the rest of the family, which included Maria Paola's father Paolo Sorrentino, her mother, her brother Giuseppe and her sister enologist Benny Sorrentino. And after a little aperitif  with  Do'Re', a Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Spumante (Charmat method) produced with coda di volpe and falanghina grapes.  

Then it was time for a casual wine tasting over lunch with the family. The winery has a wide range of wines but I decided to stick with their local favorites.  We began with a glass of organically produced Verso- Bianco pompeiano IGT produced with 100% falanghina grapes.

This is one of five wines that they produce that are certified organic and part of their Versacrum line.
The parade of whites continued, each poured by Benny Sorrentino who gave me complete play by play on each wine, grape variety, and vinification process between sips of wine and bites of food.
Whites such as 

Vigna Lapillo Bianco 2013.  A white produced from their Lapillo vineyard and part of the family's Prodivi project. A blend of coda di volpe and falanghina grapes whose vinification process includes 6 to 8 months on the lees.  A comfortable delicious bianco.  I tasted the 2011 as well.

Another white that I tried was Catalo' produced with autochthonous grape catalanesca grapes.  Some ageing in wood.

 I tried an older vintage of Nati'.  Coda di volpe is Campania's little secret and a taste of their 2010 was evidence of how this variety ages quite nicely.
Benny Sorrentino
I was ready to move onto some red wines so we began with another organic wine...

7 Moggi, their piedirosso IGT 2013 version.
Then I enjoyed myself with the following interpretations of the territory...

 This red I was familiar with.  It was the wine that pulled me here that Saturday morning.  I wrote about it here.  My favorite assaggio of the day.  Piedirosso 80%, aglianico 20%.

 This 100% piedirosso wine is another part of their evolving Prodivi line.

The last red that I tried was Don Paolo Aglianico IGT 2010.  100% aglianico grapes with a flavor all its own.  Much different to the aglianico wines I've tasted from Irpinia or Benevento thanks to the volcanic sandy soil.  A powerful full bodied wine, like it's namesake, Paolo Sorrentino who sat across from me at lunch.

He was there alongside  my chef friend Eduardo Estatico. We put him to work to whip up a pasta dish starring those amazing chiodini mushrooms that we hunted down earlier.

Chef Eduardo Estatico

I tasted other Campania specialties during the meal such as sausage and friarelli greens and provolone del monaco cheese with a spoonful of honey.

We took a last stroll around the vineyard before dessert and after dinner drink.  The drizzle had begun again but that was okay.  It was okay because the spark that had ignited inside of me earlier was now in full blaze.  I had found a family winery who was honestly open to share their hospitality, knowledge of territory, and wonderful wines with me that day.  I found a winery who was not only serious about winemaking, but also wine tourism as well with a well developed web site (in English!) including an e commerce where wine lovers stateside can order wines directly. I found a winery who worked closely with local tour guides and has even added a couple of short term rental apartments immersed in the vineyards for that wine tourist who wants something different.

Back inside, I had a bite or two of baba' and a glass of Fior di Ginestre dessert wine (falanghina and coda di volpe 70/30) and reflected on my day.  

And made a mental note or two on when to come back.
With friends.
 Like the ones I made that day.

Azienda Agricola Sorrentino
Via Fruscio, 2
80042 Boscotrecase (Na)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Chef Massimo Bottura - Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef

Chef Massimo Bottura
Earlier this week my amico Maurizio Cortese hosted an invitation only book signing/light lecture/chef junkie festa in Naples featuring  Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. Bottura is from  Modena which is located  up north, a bit far for this Campania blogger.  So although I was familiar with this 3 star Michelin chef, I have never had the opportunity to sit down a casa sua and try any of the dishes he has become famous for.
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef,  Bottura's book available in English and Italian (Vieni in Italia con Me) has been on the top ten lists in Italy and the states since its release last October. Honestly, I was curious.  Curious about what made this book special, different, interessante.  What made this book such an international hit.
And after 90 minutes ish of listening to Bottura (Italy's top chef...number 3 in the world!) speak  about his history, his country's traditions, his philosophy, and above all - witnessing his passion from the fourth row, I understood why.  I understood perche'.
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura will be under my Christmas tree this year.  Part one of a gift to myself.
Part two will have to wait until the spring.
When I finally hop on a train to Modena and have dinner at Osteria Francescana.
And ask the chef to sign my book.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cupid Strikes Again - 'A Ren' 'e Lav' Falanghina Campania IGT 2013, Azienda Agricola Agnanum (Na)

When I met Raffaele Moccia a little over two years ago in his vineyard in Agnano I was struck.  Like cupid struck.  By his vineyard, his story, and of course his wines.  In fact his Falanghina has been a staple on my table often paired with his family's rotisserie chicken.
Last summer, during a recent visit with Moccia in his tasting room, he told me that he wanted to change the wine label on one of his wines.  His Falanghina IGT.  He wanted a label  that represented that particular wine which is a blend of Falanghina and other white grapes that grow in the family vineyards.
He wanted to use a photo  of a vine that is over 250 years old.  A vine that has been growing in that sandy volcanic clay for centuries.
He wanted to use a photo that I took.
And I'm honored.
So now when I swing by a wine shop, glance at a wine list, or swing by the cantina to pick up a few bottles, my mind will go back to that Sunday in Agnano.  And cupid will strike over and over and over again...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Chocolate Panettone - Le Colonne (Ce)

And here we are.  December.  Time to officially start thinking about Christmas...and Christmas desserts!  In recent years there has been a big boom in Campania centered around specialty which doesn't have its roots in the south. The Panettone.  There are many versions, usually with candied fruit - but my favorite has to be chocolate. Like this version from Le colonne Restaurant in Caserta. Chocolate panettone after dinner...chocolate panettone for breakfast, for brunch, snack...
Well, you get the, snapshot.