About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Friday, September 7, 2018

2006 Sangiovese

Last month our local wine group met at Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne, NJ for a dinner featuring the 2006 vintage of Sangiovese based wines from Tuscany. All the wines were provided by group member Jim. Viaggio is a farm to table restaurant with a Tuscan flare.  The food is creative and well prepared, but a bit too rich for my palate.

I think the comments from the Vinous website on the 2006 vintage are well stated:

Chianti

“Consistently stunning, full-bodied wines loaded with super-ripe fruit, but with plenty of stuffing underneath. In many cases the wines were made in the last month or so of the growing season, particularly in Chianti Classico, where warm daytime temperatures alternated with cool evenings. These conditions extended the grapes’ hang time and allowed the fruit to reach full phenolic ripeness while achieving maximum development of aromatics, acidity and structure. Growers had the luxury and peace of mind to harvest without being rushed. In a few spots producers reported harvesting into October, particularly for the Sangioveses. The 2006s will be tempting to drink young for their opulent fruit, but the best wines have the potential to age gracefully for many years. Since their initial release, many of the higher-end 2006s have begun to close down, so readers will want to approach these wines with caution. If the vintage has a weak spot it is the dry tannins that show up in a few wines where the warm conditions did not allow growers to achieve the level of sweetness and ripeness in the tannins that was evident in 2004.”

Brunello di Montalcino

“The 2006 Brunellos are big, powerful wines with beautifully delineated aromatics, great concentration of fruit and plenty of structure. There are significant differences between the northern and southern parts of the zone, once again demonstrating that Montalcino really must be considered as a group of smaller appellations. The wines of the north are generally more linear, focused and aromatic, while the wines of the south tend to favor a riper, warmer expression of fruit. The summer was hot, but temperatures did not reach the extremes of years such as 2003. Spells of rain in late August and early September refreshed the grapes and slowed down their maturation cycle, always a positive for Montalcino. Growers picked under gorgeous fall weather. Once again, very few Riservas are worth the money. In fact, in most cases, the regular bottlings are aging more gracefully than the Riservas.”

Jim started us off with a white wine from Angelo Gaja, 2016 Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare Toscana IGT. A blend of 60% Vermentino and 40% Viognier, fermented separately. The Vermentino is aged in stainless steel tanks while the Viognier is aged in oak (Barrique?) casks for 6 months.  Typical of Gaja wines I found this on the modern side with a fair amount of oak on the palate.  Not my cup of tea. 

2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva.  100% Sangiovese. After the quality-selected clusters are de-stemmed and pressed, the must is fermented and macerated in stainless steel for 16-20 days at 28°C and 30°C, with programmed punch downs and daily pumpovers. In March-April, the new wine goes into new French oak barrels; after 18-20 months of maturation, the final blend is assembled, bottled, and ages in glass a minimum of 6-8 months.  Felsina wines, while aged in new oak barrels, integrates the oak very well and as a result it never dominates the palate. The wine was fantastic, with bright ripe fruit, great acidity and balance and a lengthy, delicious finish.  This was my WOTN and pretty much the consensus WOTN of the group.

2006 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. 100% Sangiovese Grosso.  Ultra modern wine with oak dominating the palate.  A far cry from the Rancia.  I have never been a fan of this producer.

2006 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino. 100% Sangiovese Grosso that was fermented in cement and aged for three years in Slavonian oak casks.  Runner up to the Rancia, in my opinion. Nice balance and complexity here with a lengthy and elegant finish.

2006 Conti Constanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. 100% Sangiovese Grosso.  48 months. 18 months in tonneaux, 18 months in Slavonian oak wooden barrels and 12 months in bottle.  A nice wine that I felt was a bit tight and should benefit from an additional few years in the cellar.


Another wonderful evening with great guys.  Thanks Jim for the wines and dinner.

Saluté

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tuscan Family Vacation

Carol and I recently returned from a spectacular family vacation in Italy.  Spending time with family is always special, but when you get a chance to do it Italy, it is really special.  In addition to my daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren I invited our good friends Gino and Mary Jo to join us. We spent the first seven days at Villa San Luigi in Buonconvento, Italy.  Our final three days were spent at the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome.

The Villa

The Villa San Luigi is a spectacular 15th century designed farmhouse that was renovated by owners by Affie Hussein and his Joanna from 2010 to 2015.  It is located about 15 miles south of Siena. It is equipped with every amenity you can imagine. Our hosts were most gracious and made our visit memorable.  Affie welcomed us to the villa with a couple of bottles of chilled Prosecco, a welcomed quaff after the 3-hour transport from Rome.  The kids had a fantastic time exploring the grounds and frolicking in the pool.

Isabell, Nicholas, Mia, AJ

The Food & Wine

It is very difficult to find a bad meal in Italy and this trip was no exception whether we ate at the villa or in one of the many local restaurants, we always came away feeling happy, content and perhaps a bit stuffed.

One of the many services Villa San Luigi offers is in villa chef services for dinner.  We opted for this service on our first night and last night at the villa.  The menus for the meals were preselected by us prior to our trip and prepared by top local chefs.

On Saturday evening, chef Alfonso of the local Buonconvento Ristorante Da Mario prepared the meal.  He was assisted in the kitchen by Gabriella, his wife and villa housekeeper, and owner Affie.  We began the meal with tender pan-fried calamari topped with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and grilled eggplant with smoked mozzarella.


We all love spaghetti and meatballs, especially the grandkids, and Alponso's preparation hit the nail on the head!


What else to you have in Tuscany for a main course but Bistecca Fiorentina.  Tender and delicious with a salad of arugula and tomato, it was delicious.


My children selected Tiramisu for dessert.  This is a dessert that I have never been overly fond of until this evening.  It was simply magnificent.  Moist and delicious, I had two pieces, as did most of the others.


With this meal we drank a 2016 Tormaresco Chardonnay from Puglia that I picked up when we stopped for lunch on the Auto Strada.  While it will never challenge the great whites of the world, it was oak-free, crisp and delicious.  Affie was kind enough to sell me two bottles of 2010 Baricci Brunello Di Montalcino Reserve Nello from the villa's cellar.  I was unfamiliar with this under the radar producer of Brunello Di Montalcino.  Affie explained that the 2010 Reserve Nello (named after founder Nello Baricci) is the first Reserva made in the 60 year history of the winery.  The wines is an old world masterpiece that displayed fantastic, depth and pedigree.  Enjoyable now, it needs a good 10+ years in the cellar to appreciate how good this can be.  I put the wine in the same category as Soldera.

Nello Baricci is one of the 26 founding members of the Brunello di Montalcino Association, established in 1967. He was, for many years, the voice of the small producers who greatly contributed to increasing this prestigious appellation’s reputation. It is for this reason that Baricci today remains the only producer who can put a drawing of the town of Montalcino on its wine labels. The estate, now run by Nello’s son Pietro Buffi and grandson Federico Buffi, is located in Colombaio Montosli, an area considered one  of Brunello’s best vineyards. The Baricci family never followed the trend towards an international, more extracted and woody style. Rather, their wines are made following the purest regional traditions, with precision and great elegance. Soil, sun exposure, serious farming without chemical herbicides or products, and a traditional winemaking process, are the main reasons for these Brunello wines’ authenticity and unpretentiousness. The Baricci family’s wines are simply fine, beautiful, and elegant. They beautifully illustrate the intrinsic properties of the Montalcino terroir.

Montosoli, a unique terroir north of Montalcino, is located between the mountains and the plains of Valdarbia. The five-hectare Colombaio de Montosoli vineyard, owned by the Baricci family, is located in a privileged area of the ​​Brunello di Montalcino appellation. Here, the Montalcino hills protect the vineyard from the sirocco. The light north-eastern winds quickly dry the rain and help maintain optimum levels of acidity in the berries. The soil is a complex mixture of marl, shale, quartz, clay, and marine deposits dating from the Pliocene era. This soil composition ensures good drainage in rainy vintages.

The wine is aged 36 months in Slavonian oak barrels of 40 Hl, plus 6 months in the bottle before the release.  Only 6,000 bottles were made and numbered.

After quickly disposing of two bottles of the Baricci, we opened a 2013 Prunotto Barolo that I also picked up on the Auto Strada.  While not in the same class as the Baricci this medium-bodied Nebbiolo had a nice fruity bouquet and a soft, if unexciting palate.

We relaxed by the pool on Sunday and Monday and ate in Buonconvento for dinner both nights.

Ristorante Da Mario.  The restaurant is owned by chef Alfonso's family and he serves as the chef.  We dined al fresco under pleasant Italian skies.



Highlights of the meal included:

Tartare di Vitello
Homemade Pici w/ Calcio e Pepe

One of the things I love about drinking wine in Italy is the abundance of local wine that never seems to make it into the states.  We began the meal with two bottles 2015 Muzic Collio Sauvignon.  This was simply delicious and at 12 €, a fantastic bargain.  Straw colored with a greenish tinge, the fruity bouquet was most inviting.  The first sip reveals a beautifully structured wine with a clean palate of fresh fruit, a crisp mouth feel lengthy finish.  The winery is at a crossroad between the road going from Gorizia to the summit of San Floriano del Collio and the one that goes down to the Preval. It is owned Ivan and Orieta Muzic and their children Elija and Fabijan.



For the red we were delighted with a couple of bottles of 2013 ForteMasso Barolo Castelletto.  Located in Castelletto, this was a medium-bodied Barolo that had plenty of character balance and complexity for a 35 € wine.  After 30 minutes in the glass the wine began to take on more depth and the finish became more refined.  All harvesting is done by hand, de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in wood for an average of 30 months followed by a further 8 to 10 months in bottle before release.


Ristorante Le Antiche Mura.  Acclaimed for their pizza, Antiche Mura is more than a pizzeria.  In fact it is said that it is the best pizza in all of Tuscany.  Ciro, who hails from Gragnano, a small village in the province of Naples, mans the ovens, while his wife Carmella is the chef. We tried several pizza selections, including a Nutella pizza that the kids really enjoyed.  A salad of Baccala and fennel; Pici Bolognese and a superb Fritto Misto of Calamari, Shrimp and Scallops were the standouts of the evening from the kitchen.



We began the meal with 2015 Società Agricola Nativ Fiano di Avellino. Made from 100% Fiano grapes, it was the WOTN. Pale yellow in color the wine was fruity, pleasant and light, nicely balanced with good acidity.   The wine is made by light pressing of whole clusters, cold static clearing and fermentation with selected yeasts.

Founded in 2008, the company is dedicated to the production of typical wines of the territory, in particular, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Aglianico and Aglianico of Taurasi. The vines are grown on soils of property, that are well known for their particular fertility thanks to their volcanic origin. The vineyards spread for about 15 hectares, between Paternopoli and Taurasi.



For red we started with 2016 Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino Poggio alle Mura.  100% Sangiovese and aged in French Barrique for 12 months, the wine was very modern in style, with too much oak at this early stage of drinking. Made from vines that were planted in 1992 at an altitude: 210-220 meters above sea level.  The wine is an attempt to isolate the optimal selection of clones from the hillside.


We then tried a bottle of 2013 Casanova di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino.  Nice transparent red hue and enticing bouquet, and considerably better than the Banfi but much to young and oaky.

Francesca Padovani
Tuesday morning we paid a visit to Campi di Fonterenza in Montalcino.  The wines are imported by Louis Dressner and some are distributed by David Bowler Wines.  My friend Gino who is a rep for Bowler set up the appointment. Fonteranza is a young estate that was started by twin sisters Francesca and Margarita Padovani in 1997.  A neighbor of the legendary Brunello producer Gianfranco Soldera, who has been a mentor to them, the first vines were planted in 1999, then again in 2002 and the last bit was planted in 2005. The estate is now at 4 hectares of high-altitude Sangiovese, surrounded by woods and olive groves. Of their vines, only 1 hectare is used for their Brunello di Montalcino; the rest goes into their Rosso di Montalcino and a younger-vine, stainless steel version called Pettirosso.  The farming has been organic from the beginning, and the sisters, who do everything themselves, now work biodynamically. The cellar work is as minimal as possible. Fermentations are natural in large, mainly Slavonian oak casks; use of sulfur is minimal; aging takes place in a mix of botti, tonneaux and barriques. Production is very small for this under the radar producer of superb wines..

They currently make five red cuvées: a Sangiovese rosé (Rosa), a younger Sangiovese from Brunello and Santasimo classified grapes (Pettitrosso Vino Rosso), a Rosso de Montalcino, a single vineyard Rosso Di Montalcino (Alberello) as well as a Brunello (2004 was the first vintage) that is released after five years.  They also make a white wine, Biancospino. The wine is inspired by the sister’s love of white wines and of Monte Amiata, a place that abounds with small old vineyards planted with unrenowned grapes. It is an old-style peasant blend made by macerating indigenous varietals such as Trebbiano Toscano, Procanico, Malvasia and Ansonaca with their skins. The first vintage produced was 2010. They have an ongoing project to replant a new mountain vineyard next to the Vigna Matta, an old vineyard in Montegiovi dating from 1920 that they currently rent for the production of this wine.


Since the first time I tasted the Rosso and Brunello about 5 years ago I have been captivated by their purity, balance, complexity and elegance.  Today we tasted the 2015 and 2016 Rosso and the 2014 & 2015 Brunello.  Each wine was a joy to drink with the Rossos, as one would expect, much more approachable today.  The Brunellos showed great pedigree and are destined to be terrific in 8 to 10 years.  At about $35 and $80 a bottle respectively, the wines are a must for lovers of traditionally made Brunello.  Speaking of great QPR, the Rosé at $20 is simply amazing. 

The 2015 Pettirosso Vino Rosso is a blend of 80% Sangiovese/20% Ciliegiolo. Pettirosso is named for the "red-breasted"  finches inhabiting the vineyard and was first bottled in 2011, as the Padovani sisters' version of a vin de soif. The fruit comes mainly from a rented vineyard of old vines and varieties in the wooded, hilly Monte Amiata zone of Tuscany, west of Montalcino (one of the main sources of white Biancospino fruit too). The vines are organically farmed and harvested by hand. The Sangiovese is destemmed, crushed and fermented in tank with native yeasts; the Ciliegiolo is whole-cluster-pressed and carbonically fermented. The wine is blended and aged in botti for 7-8 months before being bottled unfiltered. Pettirosso is classified simply as Vino Rosso (the vintage is found as a lot number in tiny print on bottom right of label).  An interesting wine, but lacks the purity and depth of the other two.

The white Biancospino metioned above was not tasted at the winery, but we did buy a bottle later in the week.  The burnt yellow hue and slight oxidation reminded me of an orange wine from Friuli. The wine had great balance and acidity and evolved nicely in the glass.

On the recommendation of Francesca, we ate lunch at Trattoria il Leccio in Sant'Angelo, a small village a couple of miles from her estate. She also had the restaurant open a bottle of 2007 and 2010 Fonterenza Rosso Di Montalcino as she wanted us to see how well her wines age. Both wines were beautiful examples of how good Rosso Di Montalcino can be.  While the 2010 was lovely, it did not match the depth and complexity of the 2007.  My guess is that given a couple more years, it will.

We began lunch with two bottles of 2017 Col D’Orcia Toscana Vermentino.  The wine exhibited a brilliant straw yellow hue, vibrant fruit, terrific acidity and a delicious finish.  A beautiful Vermentino. Highlights of the lunch included delicious ricotta stuffed Zucchini Flowers in a deliciously sweet tomato sauce...


…homemade Ricotta stuffed Ravioli in tomato sauce that were almost as good as my grandmother's.


…Fried Chicken Cutlets with fresh local vegetables flawlessly fried in a tempura-like batter.  I don’t think I have ever tasted chicken cutlets or fried veggies as good as this before.  Simply off the chart!!!


… not pictured, but equally as delicious were the homemade Pici with meat ragu.

On the recommendation of our waiter at lunch we had dinner at Taverna Del Grappolo Blu in Montalcino.  The restaurant is not very easy to find but is well worth finding if you are in Montalcino. This great little restaurant offers a range of delicious regional dishes such as Soft Polenta with Eggplant and Mushroom Ragu


…and Sausage with beans


The restaurant has an exceptionally fine and reasonably priced wine list with many local specialties as well as many classics.

We began the evening with 2017 Gualdo del Re Valentina Vermentino which like the other local whites we drank was fresh, crisp and a delight to drink.

2013 Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino. The wine is still very young, and will never be a great wine, but at 30 € a bottle it was easy to drink.

1990 Cal D'Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino.  This was gorgeous, a beautifully mature wine with soft tannins and a magnificently balanced and elegant palate and equally elegant and lengthy finish.  The wine soared from the glass with each sip.  A wine with plenty of soul…and for the unheard of price of 70 €.

This was my first experience with this producer and I was very impressed. Col d'Orcia wines are estate produced and bottled, with grapes grown mostly on the estate and partly in surrounding farms whose vineyards are supervised by Col d’Orcia during the whole productive cycle. The high density of planting, the choice of the rootstock suitable for the characteristics of each piece of land, the use of highly selected clones and an overall attention to the characteristics of each single vineyard ensure a limited production per plant aimed at achieving high quality grapes, healthy, concentrated and rich in colour and tannins. Farming techniques include grass mulching, cluster thinning at the “veraison” and perfect ripening of the grapes on the plant.

Attention to detail characterizes the wine making process at Col d'Orcia , the same given to every other step of the production cycle. The harvest, carried out exclusively by hand, is regulated by precise analysis in order to ensure the optimal phenolic maturation of every bunch collected: a sorting table at the entrance of the cellar allows an even more detailed selection.

Fermentation is conducted in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks shaped so that the surface of contact between juice and skins ensures optimal delicate extraction of the high quality ingredients such as polyphenols and colouring matters. Ageing in wood takes place in Slavonian and selected French oaks. The size of the barrels and the time of ageing vary according to the characteristics of each batch. For some wines ageing in wood can take as long as 4 years. Finally the bottles are kept for further ageing on the estate until their refinement is completed.

The winemaking cellar, made out of the original premises of the farm, has steel tanks with controlled temperature and capacity of 8.400 hectolitres. The ageing cellar, built in the year 1990 and perfectly included in the surrounding Mediterranean environment, has Slavonian and Allier oak barrels whose capacity is 25,50,75,150 hectolitres for a total amount of 7000 hectolitres and no. 800 barriques for a total amount of 1.800 hectolitres.

On Wednesday we spent the day in Florence.  We arrived at lunchtime and choose to eat at an outdoor table of Ristorante Buca San Giovani in the Duomo Square.  The service was courteous and professional and the food was delicious.  We enjoyed, Eggplant Strudel with Mozzarella di Buffalo, Risotto, Bisteca, Veal Milanese and Minestrone Soup.  As it was a hot day I decided on a couple of ice cold Peroni Birras.  I don’t recall the white wine, but the girls loved it.

After lunch we met our tour guide and began our tour with a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David.  The kids were mesmerized by the statue and asked our guide tons of questions.  In fact they enjoyed every part of the tour which included the Duomo, the old section of town and of course the Rialto Bridge.


After the tour we headed for the Florencetown Diadema Cooking School where we participated in a pizza and gelato making class.  The kids had a ball, and as you might expect, made the best pizzas.

Isabella making pizza
Thursday and Friday Carol and I relaxed by the pool all day before heading to Trattoria Fonte Giusta in Siena.  My good friend Mario, who owns Divina Ristorante in NJ, is a good friend with Fonte Giusta owner, Pino, who greeted us warmly and filled our bellies with too much food, some of it complimentary.    We enjoyed Bruschetta with Tomato, Bruschetta with Lardo, vegetables in an outrageous tomato sauce, Risotto with Aspargus, Chicken with vegetables, Pici al ragù di Cinghiale (wild boar); Sliced Steak and Rabbit.

The wine list was soft, but on their recommendation for a traditionally made Brunello we tried a 2013 Col di Lamo Brunello di Montalcino.  The wine exhibited good balance and acidity but was still a work in progress.  I think this will be quite good in 5 to 10 yeas.




Friday, our last evening at the Villa, our meal was prepared by Chef Hiro, who as the name would suggest is from Japan.  He has been cooking in Italy for the past 25 years and according to Villa owner Affie, he earned 1 Michelin star when he was chef at Poggio Antico Ristorante.  Today he is a private chef.  After our meal, we all felt that 1 Michelin star was 2 short of what he deserves.  It was way, way over the top.  Like the first night, we pre-selected the menu.  We began with a Polenta duo topped with Mozzarella and Pecorino in as flavorful a tomato sauce as anyone of us has ever experienced.  This simple dish was simply amazing with textures and flavors dancing on the palate in exquisite harmony.



As good as the polenta was, the Risotto Primavera that followed was ethereal.  Risotto is about the rice, with the sauce playing a supportive and complimentary role.  This preparation nailed it. Again the balance of texture and flavors elevated the perfectly cooked rice to sublime perfection.


The main course was Chicken Cacciatore for the adults and chicken cutlets for the kids.  Like the other courses, the Cacciatore was fantastic.  Juicy and full of flavor, we licked our plates clean.


Dessert was another home run.  I forget what Hiro called it, but it was somewhere between a cheesecake and a tart and fantastic.


I have had many extraordinary meals in my time, and this one is right up there with the best of them.  Thank you Hiro, you are definitely our hero!


With this meal we drank:

2016 Col D’Orcia Vermentino.  Like the bottle of 2017 we drank at lunch a few days before, this was crisp, with fresh fruit and pleasing palate.

2008 Fonterenza Rosso Di Montalcino.  Terrific RdM.  Beautifully structured, with terrific balance and complexity.  Better than many other producers Brunello.

2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte & 2013 Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino.  Both of these remarkable wines are much too young to fully appreciate, but a superb wines in the making that should be classics in about 10 to 15 years.

Some of the other wines we enjoyed while lounging and snacking at the villa included:

2015 Montevertine Rosso di Toscana. Made with Sangioveto, Canaiolo and Colorino grapes, the wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for about 24 months.  A beautifully made wine that is drinking beautifully.

2012 Biondi Santi Rosé.  Gino found this in a local wine shop and it was wonderful.  Crisp with considerable depth and complexity.  Top notch!

2016 Castellare Ginestre Bianco.  A blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Sauvignon Blanc.  A simple and easy drinking white.

2015 Querciabella Chianti Classico.  100% Sangiovese  from 3 different vineyards that emerges after about 30 minutes in the glass.  Nice balance and finish.

2008 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Monna Lisa.  I did not care for this.  I think the wine has seen its better days.

2015 Barone Ricasoli Torricella Bianco. A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Sauvignon Blanc.  Did not taste, but the girls loved it.

2012 Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva il Poggio.  Excellent Chianti that is beginning to wake up. 


We said good-bye to Villa San Luigi and headed to the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome for a few days before returning home.


Gino, Mary Jo, Carol and I dined our first night at the three Michelin star restaurant La Pergola that is located on the rooftop of the hotel.  The restaurant is under the direction of chef Heinz Beck and boasts a 60,000-bottle wine cellar and innovative cuisine.  This was our second time here and Carol and I both feel that while some dishes are excellent, others are average at best. 

Char-grill scented veal sweetbreads on celeriac and black cabbage were tender but the char-grill distracted from the subtle flavor of the sweetbreads in my opinion.


Duck foie gras with peach and mushroom.  A very different preparation than the classic in which the fois gras is pan seared.  Tasty, but, in my opinion, lacked the texture of the classic.  


Deep-fried zucchini flower with caviar on shellfish and saffron consommé.  Not a fan of caviar, so I did not taste this in its entirety.  I did however taste a Zucchini flower, which had very little flavor on its own.  Gino, however liked it a lot.



Risotto with olive oil and grana padano, vegetables and scampi “in pinzimonio”.  This was as good as it looks in the photo below.  Perfectly al dente rice in a delicate sauce.  


Fagottelli “La Pergola”.  Small ravioli pockets stuffed with carbonara sauce in a sage butter sauce sprinkled with fried prosciutto.  Great textures and flavors here.  My favorite of the entire meal.


Pigeon with peanut-crusted black salsify and port-scented snow.  Gino loved it.  


Fillet of sea bass with fennel, orange and olives.  Three of us ordered this and we all had the same reaction…it looked better than it tasted.  We found the flavors to be very bland.


Cream filled sponge cake with ice cream, a incredible selection of cheeses and La Pergola’s famous (& complimentary) Stainless Steel chest of drawers containing various homemade chocolate delights completed the meal.

The stars of the evening were the wines we selected.  We began with 2013 Cantina Terlano Winkl Sauvignon from Trentino, Italy.  This is one of the greatest Sauvignon Blancs I have ever tasted.  The wine exhibited a straw yellow hue, with an enticing citric aroma.  On the palate the wine had impeccable balance and depth with terrific acidity.  The finish was long, elegant and delicious. 

Manual harvest and selection of the grapes; gentle whole cluster pressing and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation; slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks, aging on the lees in steel tanks for 5-7 months.

Located in Alto Adige’s Dolomite Mountains, in the foothills of the Alps, Terlano’s distinctive location and extraordinary terroir are the key to the development of these stunning wines. Situated in a sheltered hollow, Terlano benefits from an ideal south facing exposure.

For the red the sommelier recommended a 1998 Vietti Barbaresco Masseria that drank beautifully.  I am a big fan of Vietti’s Barolos. This was only the second time I have had the Barbaresco Masseria and like the first time it was glorious.  The wine had a gorgeous translucent red hue with a big fruity and earthy bouquet.  The palate was marked by depth, finesse and balance.  The wine never stopped evolving in the glass. The finish was long an elegant.  Link the Terlano, a wine with soul!

My notes indicate that the Masseria is vinified and aged like Vietti's single-vineyard Barolos, which is to say long fermentations, six months in Barrique and two-plus years in Slavonian cask.  Priced at about half the level of Vietti's vineyard designate Barolos, the Masseria is a fabulous value relative to other wines of this pedigree.

While the rest of the group went on a walking tour of Rome on Sunday, Carol and I slept in and then lounged by the pool for the rest of the day before heading to Emma Pizzeria for dinner.  The restaurant was recommended by a number of members of the Vinous website.  It was a terrific recommendation as the pizza, food and wine were terrific, especially the L’uovo di San Bartolomeo Bio, a soft cooked egg on a potato cake with parmesan and asparagus.  If you are a fan of eggs like I am, this will bring a big smile to your face.


For wine we had two more bottles of the 2013 Cantina Terlano Winkl Sauvignon that we had at La Pergola the previous night.  The wine was as good as previous, only, as you might expect, ⅓ the price.  For the red we had a couple of bottles of 2012 Massolino Barolo Margheria.  For the red we had a couple of bottles of 2012 Massolino Barolo Margheria.  What a gorgeous Barolo.  This may well be the wine of the vintage. While it is still in its infancy the wine drank with finesse, depth and balance.  In my opinion this was almost as good as the 2010 vintage.


Our last day in Italy began with a tour of the Vatican and St. Peters Cathedral.   The crowds were unbelievably large, the lines long and slow,  and as enjoyable as it was it was a very tiring 4 hours.  We went back to the hotel and had a leisurely lunch of good old American hamburgers, which were delicious.  We drank a few bottles 2017 Leone de Castris 1665 Five Roses 74 Anniversario Salento IGT.  This delicious Rosé is made from 100% Negroamoro grapes from vines that average 50 years of age.  The wine had good structure and drank very easily. The Five Roses Anniversario was created for the first time with the vintage ’93, in the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Five Roses.

We concluded our trip with a spectacular evening tour of the Coliseum at night before getting a night’s sleep before returning home.  It was quite a trip, and as I said in the first paragraph, doing with my family was very special.  Carol and I are very lucky and blessed to have such a great family and friends to share our lives with.  I did not think anything could make the trip better until my daughters, Gina and Lisa, presented me with a photo book they made of the vacation for my birthday this past Sunday.  It was magnificent, and brought tears to my eyes.   Love you guys!


Saluté