Icario “Vitaroccia” 2004

Icario Vitaroccia 2004


icario-vitaroccia-1A bit of wine and classical mythology, shall we?

Dionysus, known to the Romans as Bacchus, was the Greek God of wine, intoxication, festivity and pleasure.  Icario is inspired in name by the legend of Dionysus who, in gratitude for kindness and hospitality received, gave the gift of wine to a man of Attica named Icarius , prevailing upon him to spread the culture of wine among mortal men.

Since 1998, Icario has grown from the estate’s original 4 hectares to the 22 hectares currently under vine among the hills around Montepulciano in Tuscany. The Icario estate is owned by Giancarlo Checchetti and family, originally of Rome, and produces wines that embody the spirit of traditional Montepulciano winemaking as interpreted through a modern lens.  A key part of Icario’s self identification is a sincere connection to the culture and traditions of the Tuscan region.

Icario’s south / southeast facing vineyards are located between 450-550 meters altitude, occupying six hilltops in one of Montepulciano’s best grape growing areas.  Vineyards are planted in greatest measure to Sangiovese – known in these parts as Prugnolo Gentile – and Merlot, in a primarily medium clay soil.  With a “quality begins in the vineyard” mindset, Icario vines are looked after year round to ensure harvesting the best possible grapes.

Vitaroccia, the flagship wine of Icario, is a Vino Nobile produced in limited quantities and only in best vintage years from the estate’s best manually selected grapes.  Made of 100% Prugnolo Gentile, Vitaroccia’s fermentation takes place over 22-25 days.  After malolactic fermentation, Vitarrocia is drawn off and refined in French oak for 18 months, and further refined for 6-8 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

With a glorious, gem like ruby color, Vitaroccia fills the glass with alluring scents of ripe cherries, Tuscan herbs, and anise.  On the palate, sublime dark cherry and plum tastes are deliciously embellished with hints of smoke and vanilla spice.  A long and lingering elegant finish with firm tannins.

NOTE:  If you pour Vitaroccia directly to glass, I’d recommend to take your time, let the wine unwind a bit before you drink.  Otherwise, just do a “quick” decant and let it get 15 minutes of air before you pour to glass.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats:  slow roasted beef, porchetta, lamb, or veal;  Birds:  roasted duck or chicken;  Pasta: pappardelle with rich sauces, especially with rabbit or duck;  Rich Stews:  lamb or beef;  Aged Cheeses


Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino 2006

Are you up for learning a bit of ancient Roman winespeak?

Easy.  “Vitis Apiana”, spelled just like it sounds 🙂

Translation:  Fiano di Avellino !

Fiano, an antique vine of the Campania region of Italy, was known to the Romans by its Latin name vitis apiana, referring to the “api” or bees attracted to the honey sweet clusters of Fiano grapes.

Feudi di San Gregorio, Producer Snapshot:

Located in the Irpinia region of Campania at Sorbo Serpico and established in 1986, Feudi di San Gregorio is a great champion of varietals native to Campania and Southern Italy. Feudi’s wine book is a diverse catalog based upon ancient varietals with wines presented in a updated style showcasing regional terroir while maintaining a vital link with tradition.  Feudi retains the services of Riccardo Cotarella, one of Italy’s elite consulting winemaker-oenologists.

feudi_fianodavollino_label_hrThe wine:

This Fiano di Avellino is made of 100% Fiano grapes grown in the volcanic soil of Campania’s Irpinia region. Irpania, or “land of wolves” as it was known by the the Osci tribes who inhabited its woodlands, derived its name from the Oscan word “hirpus”, meaning wolf.  Today, the wolf remains the symbol of the province of Avellino where Fiano is grown.

Grapes harvested by hand from production areas that include the communes of Candida, Parolise and Sorbo Serpico are destemmed, gently pressed, and left briefly on the skins. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A lovely straw yellow with enticing scents of toasted hazelnuts, herbs, and spring honey.  The wine shows an amazing harmonization of flavors that include fresh peach, pear and dried dried orange peel. Supple on the palate with good, clean acidity, mineral and salt notes.  Nicely structured with an aristocratic personality, medium body and a long, creamy finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

A sublime choice for Fish / Seafood:  great with elegant dishes like fettucine with lobster, or less formally with linguine and clam sauce, or even a humble fisherman’s platter of fried seafoods; Poultry:  try boneless chicken breast with artichokes, capers, and sun dried tomatoes; or a turkey “rollatini” with prosciutto and peppers; Risotto:  seafood risotto.  Also:  this wine is a winner with Neopolitan style pizza and / or grilled vegetables.


Sangiovese Meets Soy Sauce !

sangiovese-soy-sauceAlthough I find my center of culinary gravity in Italian food traditions, I totally appreciate and enjoy other international cuisines.  I am always on the lookout for exciting, creative pairings of international foods and the Italian wines I love to drink.

Soy sauce, as ubiquotous in Asian cooking as is olive oil on the Tuscan table, is a very interesting counterpoint to the Sangiovese varietal.  The earthy, mushroom-y nature of soy sauce – a taste profile not at all uncommon in Italian food – pairs incredibly well with Sangiovese.  And the salt component of soy sauce, when tasted against Sangiovese, is good on my palate in the same way that I find the saltiness of, say, regional cured Italian meats delicious when paired with Sangiovese.

High quality sushi / sashimi / maki, dipped in the traditional mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, and paired with a bottle of slightly cooled, good Sangiovese, is a sleek, minimalistic thing of culinary beauty.

The Sangiovese-Cabernet-Merlot-Syrah blends are relevant here too and for the same reasons.  Additionally, the influence of the international varietals can make for a rounder, smoother mouthfeel, which can be incredibly sensual against the fish oils, balanced by the slightly elevated acidity of Sangiovese.

If your looking for something more imaginative than the “order white with fish” evening, give this pairing a try!  You can easily identify some good Sangiovese wines by clicking on the Sangiovese tag in Vintrospective’s right sidebar!

Tasca d’Almerita Lamuri 2005, Sicilia IGT

Tasca d’Almerita, Producer Profile:

It’s said that the inspiration to complete the opera Parsifal came to composer Wagner under a giant banyan tree at the grand residential estate of the Tasca d’Almerita family.  Who said there is no connection between wine and music! 🙂

Founded in 1830, the 1200 acre Tasca d’Almerita estate is owned by the aristocratic Tasca d’Alermita family and is located just more than an hour south of Palermo in Sicily.  The family has been making wine for 7 generations and produces 15 or so different wines based on both native and international grape varietals. Approximately 40% of production is exported.

The family history extends back to the 19th century, but it was Count Giuseppe who overcame the trend of bulk production which dominated Sicilian wine making.  Instead, the Count innovatively pushed ahead with a vision that encouraged experimentation and quality over quantity, beginning a new chapter in the family wine business.

Although technologically advanced, the company “mind” is still focused upon history, culture, and especially quality: meticulous care is administered year round in the fields and cellar.  And the family has engaged wine consultant Carlo Ferrini to provide the impeccable guidance for which he is famous.

In the estate vineyards, as vines are replanted every year, vine ages span from 1 to 40 years. Vines are predominately grown on espalier and pruned by single or double guyot.  The area microclimate is ideal, with days and nights ushering in and out significant transfer of heat and the higher elevation of Tasca d’Almerita vineyards allowing slower, gradual ripening and maturity of the grapes.

lamuri-labelTasca d’Almerita Lamuri 2005, Sicilia IGT

Nero d’Avola is the main red varietal of Sicily, producing deeply colored wines that respond well to maturation in oak barrel and have good ageing potential.  Nero d’Avola is bottled as 100% varietal and is often partnered with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot for blending.

Lamuri is made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes grown from 10-15 year old vines sited in sandy soil at 450m – 750m elevation.  Maceration in contact with skins is carried out over 12 days.  After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged for 12 months in French Oak (20% new, 80% second and third passage).

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

With a polished, gem like ruby red color and redolent of berry fruit, herbs and spice, this wine oozes posh sophistication.  An irresistably sensuous, soft velvet core on a palate of concentrated fruit underscored by good acidity and outlined by silky, but sturdy tannins. Finishes long with a last lick of vanilla spice.  An incredibly well made wine, stylish and balanced, a proverbial “finger pointing to the moon” suggesting just how good Nero d’Avola can be without sacrificing terrior.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meat:  roasted meats, especially lamb or pork;  Pasta:  pasta dressed with pesto or red sauces, baked pasta, especially lasagne with ricotta & red sauce; Cheeses:  ricotta salata, pecorino, provolone;   Also Consider:   Eggplant parmigiana; Arancini with ragu;    To Note:  This is another great wine candidate for pairing with mild to medium spicy dishes of India, Asia, and the Meditteranean !

Lamborghini Trescone 2004

Lamborghini Trescone 2004, Umbria Rosso IGT

Ready to kick up your heels?

lamborghini-trescone-labelThe Trescone, one of Central Italy’s oldest folk dances, has traditionally been performed to celebrate the end of the harvest. And, in addition to the harvest, Umbrian folk have plenty to dance about: the region has wonderful wines, food, culture, and natural beauty.

You can learn more about the Trescone and Umbrian folk tradition at Gruppo Folkloristico Umbria Folk @ http://www.umbriafolk.eu/.

The Lamborghini estate named its wine Trescone after the “il ballo del Trescone” and is located in Umbria nearby the border with Tuscany, just south of Lake Trasimeno. Ferruccio Lamborghini – the automotive baron whose life, by the way, is quite interesting in terms of how he got from “here” to “there” – purchased the property while on holiday during the ’70s in a passionate response to the land’s beauty. Patrizia Lamborghini began managing the estate during the ’90s with a mind to raising the quality bar, making changes in the estate’s viticultural philosopy and practice(s), not the least of which were reduced yields and a fellow named Riccardo Cotarella (consulting oenologist).  The estate produces wines in a modern style that shine a light on typically regional Umbrian characteristics.

Lamborghini’s Trescone is made from 50% Sangiovese, 30 % Ciliegiolo and 20 % Merlot from vines averaging 20 years old. Located at 200m-500m altitude, estate vineyards are of calcareous clay, sand, and limestone.

The fruit marcerates on skins for 18-20 days and fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks.  The wine is aged in 500 litre French oak for 4 months.

Tasting notes / Impressions

The color is a deep purple-red, like plum fruit, with scents of raspberry, cherry, strawberry, herb, and spice. The wine has good weight on the palate, and notes of richly toned plum, black cherry, herbs, and vanilla.  Tannins are seductively soft and smooth, yet bring good structure to the wine that finishes dry with good minerality.  Nicely balanced, easy to drink.

NOTE:  This wine opened up beautifully with 30 minutes of air before drinking.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meat / Game:  veal, beef, porchetta, roast chicken or turkey, pidgeon, rabbit, especially try with pounded veal cutlets! Pasta: lasagne, pastas with meat based sauces or dressed with mushroom / truffle;  Cheeses: especially recommend ricotta salata, pecorino fresco.  This also is a great wine for eclectic experimentation with Indian or Asian dishes !


Recipe: Bread at Home

pane-bread-2-thumbBread.  Its history is staggering, poetic, and full of drama.  Bread is mentioned in the Bible, has fed the ancient Greeks and Romans, and remains an important part of our modern table.  I can think of no stronger, fundamental connection to food cultures past or present, East and West, than the making of bread.

Why take the time to make bread at home?  I take the time to make bread at home because it tastes great! It totally contributes to other food and wine tasting great too, and so, for me, is an important part of the overall food / wine experience.  And the act of making bread helps me to stay connected to what I eat. Making bread reminds me to respect and appreciate the earth, what it gives to us, and it informs my perspectives about wine.

IT IS EASY:  Give it a try !


1 Kilogram of AP Flour (organic if you can get it)
6 teaspoons of Active Dried Yeast
Pinch of sugar Water, room temperature

Note:  I don’t like salt in my bread.  If you do, just go ahead and add some: disolve it in a bit water first.


Mix the yeast into a small bowl with about 1 cup / 240ml of warm water, adding a good pinch of sugar. Mix well.  Let it sit till creamy, about 8-10 minutes.

Put your flour into a large mixing bowl, add the water / yeast mixture, and then begin to add addtional water, a little at a time, till the dough comes together.

Put the dough on a floured marble, countertop, table, etc., and knead for a few minutes till it’s soft and elastic.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place for 5 – 6 hours.

Preheat your oven to 425F / 220C, move the dough onto a baking tray, shape, and bake for 40 minutes.

If you like this recipe, please visit http://www.ilcucinario.it/RICETTE%20STAMPA/PANE/pane.htm for other regional Italian bread recipes.  The site is in Italian, however, if you can’t read Italian, you might use an online translator.  *The above recipe is derived from the “Pane Toscano” recipe on that site.

Also, for more about the history of bread, you can see http://www.history-magazine.com/bread.html, which has a very interesting article on that topic.

Special THANKS to my family in Caserta, Italy who made the beautiful table cloth shown in the photo above.

Tenuta di Pietra Porzia Frascati Superiore Regillo 2007

Tenuta di Pietra Porzia Frascati Superiore Regillo 2007

tenuta-pietra-porzia-frascatiRoman mythology tells of the Dioscuri, twin sons of Jupiter, who were to have descended from the sky appearing as young horsemen during the battle of Lake Regillus nearby Frascati, to lead the Romans to victory against the Latins in 496 B.C.  The Dioscuri, especially honored by the Romans, are depicted on the bottle label of Tenuta di Pietra Porzia’s Frascati Regillo Superiore.

Frascati, a white wine celebrated in both legend and literature, has a strong association with Roman life and culture.  It is produced in the region of Lazio within the Frascati DOC zone which includes the communes of Frascati, Grottaferrata, Monte Porzio Catone, Montecompatri, and even parts of Rome itself!

First established as Quarto di Pietra Porzia in 1714, Tenuta di Pietra Porzia is located near Frascati, about 18km southwest of Rome. Although not certified “organic”, the estate does employ sustainable growing practices of low impact to the environment, insects and wildlife.  The estate is today owned by Vittorio Giulini.

40 or so hectares of south facing vineyards sited in volcanic soil at 900 ft. altitude grow the estate’s two varieties of Malvasia, Trebbiano, Grechetto, and Bombino used to make their Frascati Superiore Regillo.  And by the way, Tenuta di Pietra Porzia’s wines contain less than half the sulfite dose allowed by law.

Temperature controlled fermentation is carried out in stainless steel. The wine is retained in stainless steel tanks until the end January following harvest and then held in bottle for an additional 3 months before being released to market.

Tasting Notes / Impressions

The wine is a deep golden color of summer straw and is luminescent in the glass. Rich scents of fresh pear and citrus on the nose, and a clean, lively palate of pear and green honeydew melon.  An appealing glycerin quality is well balanced by citrus-y acidity.  Deliciously dry and firm on the finish with tasty notes of almond-marzipan.  A full bodied, sturdy Frascati.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This a great wine for any kind of lighter fare or antipasti, and can be served beautifully alone as a refreshing aperitivo.  That said, you might consider pairing this wine with lobster or crab, a creative seafood cocktail, fried calamari or stuffed artichokes.


Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2006

Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2006, DOC

goretti-le-mura-saracene-montefalco-rosso-2006-thumbOne of Italian wine’s greatest blending partnerships – that of Sangiovese and Sagrantino – hails from the area of Montefalco, aka “il balcone dell’Umbria” or “The balcony of Umbria”, so named because of its dominant position at 400m above sea level from which one can enjoy panoramic landscapes of the Umbrian valley.

The marriage of Sangiovese and Sagrantino takes place under the Montefalco Rosso DOC that allows their blending and which, not unlike Super Tuscans, also allows a Montefalco Rosso to contain other varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Goretti company evolved out of Perugia during the 1960’s and during the early ’90’s became Goretti Wine Production Ltd, focusing on grape production and processing.  With new investment, the family established Fattoria Le Mura Saracene, a name inspired by the ruins of the Saracene walls and consisting of more than 9 hectares, at Montefalco.

The Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso is a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino, and Merlot from east-west facing vineyards, approximately 8 years old, at 400m altitude.  Soil composition is of medium textured clay and limestone gravel.  At harvest there is emphasis on careful selection.  After fermentation, the wine is aged for 12 months in wood followed by 6 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Warm and sensual in the mouth, with notes of ripe blackberries, currants, spice, roasted coffee, and tobacco.  Good acidity and overall balance. Rich, dark fruits persist and remain in harmony with tannins for a rich finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats:  Roasts of beef or lamb, poultry, or game;  Pasta: with red sauces;  TRY:  Pork loin kebabs wrapped with bacon, served with stuffed roasted peppers done on the grill or in oven; Cheeses:  Mature cheeses especially pecorino.