Cantine Federiciane Monteleone Penisola Sorrentina Gragnano 2012

Cantine Federiciane Monteleone Penisola Sorrentina Gragnano 2012

“ Purple haze … all in my brain “, sings Jimi Hendrix.

Though a close description, it is not haze, exactly, which is all in my brain, but, more accurately, foam.

Purple foam, to be precise.

It is 127 miles, give or take, the distance between me and the nearest bottle of spumescent Gragnano, according to

cantine-federiciane-monteleone-penisola-sorrentina-gragnano-2012Yes, here in pizza-obsessed USA, in a corridor where pizza shops seem to outnumber people, locating a bottle of Gragnano, a wine that delivers one of the best pairings to pizza that you can imagine, is turning out to be, well, no easy task.

Go figure.

It would seem someone is missing out on a real opportunity in wine sales. If you are one of those importer / distributor / retailer types who believe the national palate is still not ready for Gragnano, well, that person may be you.

And why, by the way, is this not the case with the similar, but more easily located Lambrusco, I wonder?


Gragnano, a gently frizzante (sparkling) red wine taking its name from a town of the same name on the Sorrento Penisula, is low in alcohol with a distinct taste of grapes. It pours with a loveable purple foaminess and has the kind of acidity / effervescence that makes it a sensational partner to street food, cutting through the fat of cheese and oil, and yet, accompanies classic dishes, too, with unpretentious dignity.

And Gragnano can be an easy crossover for Lambrusco lovers, as it offers a similar drinking experience, however, Gragnano impresses me as having a somewhat larger frame, finer perlage (bubbles) and registering a different tone of earthiness.

Cantine Federiciane is located near Napoli in Italy’s Campania region. Produced under the umbrella of Penisola Sorrentina DOC, the estate’s Gragnano is made from grapes grown in the area’s volcanic soil. Back in the ‘50’s, the owners, family Palumbo, would re-ferment in heavy bottles with reinforced corks to withstand the pressure of fermentation. These days that is left to the faster and more controlled autoclave.

Whether you are interested in tasting off-beat, indigenous varietals – Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, Aglianico – or just want to lay your lips onto something new and delicious, give Gragnano a try. Be sure to give it a chill before serving. And if you don’t find Gragnano on the bottle shelf of your local wine shop, be sure to politely inform your retailer of the oversight.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Intense, deep hues of purple are echoed in lively, pomegranate-toned froth. Aromatic, bright, notes of grape and berry, earth, hint of spice, a touch of residual sugar. Rich and caressingly soft in the mouth with effervescence that really becomes a structural element here. The wine finishes a little smokey with lip-smacking, delicious dryness, gentle tannins. Fun, fresh and festive, a wine we should all be drinking more of.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Pizza, of course, but please, let us not speak here of toppings like pineapple 😉 Recommend pizza margherita or white pizza, perhaps with salami or prosciutto; cecina / farinata (chick-pea flour “pizza”); the always comforting mozzarella in carrozza (Italian grilled cheese) is a simple and sensational pairing; sausages with mascarpone, a favorite dish of Italian cyclist Marco Pantani, may he rest in peace, I imagine to be insanely good company to Gragnano; calzone stuffed with salami and ricotta ( how many of these I made for my kids’ school lunch !); peppers and egg panino; cheeses like provolone, smokey scarmorza, mozzarella di buffalo; cured meats like salami, capicola, prosciutto cotto; Gragnano is perfect for the ever classic eggplant parmigiana; meat lovers will not be disappointed when pairing this wine to a good roast; spaghetti with mussels in light marinara sauce; a slam-dunk winner with fried seafood like squid, octopus, fried fish, especially pan-fried bacala.


Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2010

Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2010

It was 1967, the Summer of Love, and guys in my neighborhood were trading in their baseball gloves for electric guitars. The Beatles told us that all we’d need is love, barbers looked for new careers, and overnight an explosion of color and fashion replaced yesterday’s blue jeans and white tee-shirts.

Things were changing.

By the time ’69 rolled around, outdoor gatherings of young people were happening coast to coast and in Europe. I squinted through summer sunlight at a grassy slope packed so tightly with moving bodies wearing tie-dyed clothing that, from a distance, it gave the impression of being some massive, psychedelic bed quilt. Reaching the hill, the air filled with sounds of Jimi Hendrix amid atmospheric layers of pot smoke, sweat and the musky, vague-ish mint scent of patchouli.


I recall for you that period of personal flower child history because it is where I landed in a vivid flashback inspired by memory-prodding musky notes of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Blanc reaching my brain, linking me to some dreamy reverberation of being a teenager during the late ‘60’s.

First produced in 2003, Le Cigare Blanc is the “white analogue” (says BDV’s Randall Grahm) to Boony Doon’s flagship and massively impressive red Le Cigare Volant, an homage to the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Sourced from the biodynamically farmed Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco area of California’s Monterey County, the wine is a blend of 55% Roussanne and 45% Grenache Blanc. The blending prescription apparently changes vintage to vintage depending upon the particular characteristics of each vintage year. Grapes are fermented together (the blend is completed up front) in double barrel and stainless steel with opportunity to tweak the final wine using unblended reserve.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A fragrant blast of pear, subtle musk, natural honey, notes of herb, mint and flowers. Complex, earthy, urgently sensual. Good weight on the palate, yet tender and plush in the mouth, enlivened by a citrus-y, mineral vein of acidity. Long, savory finish balanced with a delicate hint of bitter goodness. A blissed out, trippy, idealized, revolutionary wine for drinking, eating and loving 🙂 

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Salmon lox, crustaceans (dreaming of angel hair pasta and crab meat in a delicate cream sauce), toast points with avocado and soft boiled egg, fatty sea fish, vegetable torte, quiche, creamy cow’s milk cheeses (brie, robbiola, etc.)

Related posts:

Highlights from Burlington, VT Wine & Food Festival 2013

The Scent of Memory


Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

*** Red Wine of Stunning Quality & Value ***

Near Moody Street at Pine
100% Negromaro

Found June 21 2013

Has Sexy Black Label
Elegant Silver Letters
Reads: Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Please Contact: Your Local Wine Shop

Miraculously, a red wine of stunning quality and value has been found unharmed. The bottle was discovered inside a local wine shop in excellent condition and is in good health 😉

cantele-salice-salentino-riserva-20091Certainly, I am not the first to “find” this bottle: the wine is a Tre Bicchieri winner (Gambero Rosso). But, neither shall I be the last. Wines that deliver this level of quality and value deserve to be talked about every day and put solidly on the buying radar of wine lovers new and old.

I’ll leave you a link below to an earlier post with more about Cantele. But, for now, more about this great Negromaro from Puglia:

Negromaro grapes grown in calcareous soil are de-stemmed and crushed. Maceration is carried out over 10 days. Fermentation using selected yeasts. After malolactic, the wine is aged between 6-12 months spent in 2nd / 3rd passage barriques.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Flavors of gorgeous, achingly ripe red and dark fruits, not at all cooked, really sing on a sensuous palate warmed by perfectly balanced alcohol. There is a sense of earthiness, yet in a very soft, polished way. Notes of milk chocolate, hint of herb. Good acidity keeps it all fresh. Love the sleek tannins. Hands down one of the best bargain bottles I have ever tasted.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Just the right level of acidity makes this Salice a great table wine. Recommend baked ziti; roasted or grilled meats, especially good with grilled lamb scented with rosemary; eggplant parmigiana; medium aged cheeses.

Related post: Cantele Primitivo Salento