Cellar Tours Blog

Archive for the ‘italian wine’ Category

Tuscany in the Fall

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2013

Tuscany in the Fall- By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Tuscany is the ideal destination for a gourmet wine tasting getaway in the autumn! Imagine freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil on bruschetta; exquisite white truffles  shaved over handmade pasta; aromatic porcini mushrooms and roast chestnuts; pumpkin and sage stuffed pasta; ripe figs wrapped in prosciutto;  manicured olive groves and vineyards with flaming red and orange leaves; velvety red wines on a chilly, sunny afternoon, medieval castles and stone villas …. this is Tuscany in the Fall.

There are few places on earth so idyllic and beautiful which tantalize all the senses like La Toscana

Poderi di Luigi Einaudi

We were lucky to attend Buy Tuscany a few weeks ago and visit some of our favorite suppliers to touch base and check the state of the wear and tear. Things were looking great! We are happy to recommend the following hand selected hotels for your next vacation in Tuscany, ones that have worked very well this last season and where you are sure to have a fabulous time- buon viaggio!

Relais Borgo San Felice

Immersed in the sublime Chianti wine country, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, this Relais & Chateaux is actually an entire small hamlet. It´s got movie set narrow streets, a Romanesque church and medieval buildings which house 46 elegant rooms and suites. Being a historic structure there is no elevator but there are 5 rooms on the ground floor for those who can´t do stairs. After a late breakfast, the perfect relaxed day can start with a visit to the winery onsite, followed by an excellent Tuscan lunch at Poggio Rosso, where 2 Michelin starred chef Francesco Bracali prepares dishes based on local culinary traditions with his hint of personal creativity. Next season they will be offering exciting new cooking classes.

borgo san felice1378667_10202439036047351_1041325921_n

Castello di Casole

Recently opened after a long and careful restoration by Timbers Resorts, this wonderful huge estate welcomes you with a cypress-lined lane that leads to the elegant main courtyard of the castle that dates back to the year 998. In the main area and building the hotel offers 41 suites, mixing Tuscan and contemporary styles. There are also some villas and farmhouses scattered throughout the extensive estate (available also for sale).
Not far from the hotel, in cooperation with winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, Castello di Casole produces 2 wines: Dodici and ‘C’, both private-label signature wines, which are available only to owners and guests. Very exclusive.

87925

Castel Monastero

Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Chianti Classico wine region, the hotel is a respectfully restored medieval village. The buildings, distributed in different areas of the estate, are divided into “contrade” and house 74 luxury rooms and suites. While the village is in classic Tuscan style, the rooms have a chic, modern design which retains a warm and intimate atmosphere.  The Gourmet Highlight is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay´s restaurant, Contrada.

101112

Villa Armena

A stunning late Renaissance villa made with red brick, surrounded by gentle hills (this is quintessential Tuscan countryside), dotted with oak trees, wheat fields and cypresses: this is Villa Armena. Very intimate and cozy, it is owned and run by Edoardo and Elena (together with newborn Leo and bulldog Franco), a sweet and professional couple that really make you feel at home, as if you were old friends. After a day of  tasting Brunello di Montalcino or a visit to the white truffle fair in nearby San Giovanni d’Asso village, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace of Tuscan countryside. Dine in at restaurant Sorbo Allegro, where you will be be pampered by chef Carlo Valeri, who recently won the  prestigious Gualtiero Marchesi award. Recommended!!

131415

Borgo Scopeto

Feel like you are a galaxy away from the trials and tribulations of modern life, yet in reality you are onlya short distance from Siena-  Borgo Scopeto is a classic Tuscan “borgo”.  Once home to the famous Sozzini dynasty, it is now a beautifully restored and elegant hotel- a tasteful blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Borgo Scopeto is also an agricultural  estate, producing wine and extra virgin olive oil, that you can sample at their fancy La Tinaia restaurant or directly at the winery, not far from the relais. Dreamy!

scopeto 4scopeto 2scopeto 5scopeto 3

Il Borgo Castello Banfi

If you’ve always dreamed about being a prince or princess  then this is the right place for you! Owned by world famous Banfi winery, it is housed in a real castle in the ethereal Montalcino countryside and offers 14 fantastic rooms and suites furnished and decorated by Federico Forquet, with exclusive accessories. You can dine in the classic Tuscan restaurant in the medieval castle, sampling traditional dishes like pinci (which is called “pici” in the rest of the region of Siena). This is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, that you can learn to make during a fun and interesting cooking class on site.

castello banfi56

Il Falconiere

The ultimate Under the Tuscan Sun experience. Experience true Tuscan living at this welcoming resort, with  touch of bohemia. The warm, affectionate  Baracchi family are great characters. Silvia will spoil your palate at the restaurant and during her enlightening and amusing cooking classes (you can even learn how to make your own cheese!), Riccardo will charm you with tails about falconry and, together with his son Benedetto, will introduce you to his wines. Add a small but complete spa (with wine therapy and olive oil treatments), not to mention the opportunity to meet falcon Lilla … what else could you look for?

181716

We get so many requests for romantic trips, from honeymoons to anniversaries, babymoons to Valentine’s Day trips, so we composed some fun ideas in Italy (is there anywhere more romantic?) for our special guests:
1. For lovers of the romanticism  period and particularly of Lord Byron, what could be better than his suite at Punta Chiappa in Camogli with a private dinner from the tower where he wrote his poems? Sublime views from the special Byron´table…

stella maris Byrons table

2. For Shakespeare romantics, a plush room in gorgeous Verona facing Juliet’s balcony is all you’ve ever asked for…

verona

3. For astronomers and star crossed lovers,  the cabriolet suite in the lovely Franciacorta winemaking countryside is a dream

ITA_ALBE_PG_Honeyroom
4. Want to cross paths with movie stars and rock stars, but avoid the paparazzi – we suggest an off the beaten track location like Basilicata where Francis Ford Coppola has opened a fab little palazzo hotel…

palazzo-margherita3

5. If Classic is your style, then Venice is your destination and a terrace on the Grand Canal is THE luxury touch to make the experience special and memory making…

venice punta dogana

6. For the lucky ones who have already found their prince charming, stay in a real castle in Tuscany!

banfi
7. For  lovers of the Dolce Vita,  the jet set atmosphere in Capri with its amazing food and nightlife extravaganza calls…

Ristorante-Il-Riccio_2

8. … and finally, for those who are down to earth, but still dreamers  at heart, a private candelit dinner overlooking the sea, in stunning Taormina, Sicily is our suggestion…

san pietro taormina lg

 

Let us plan the romantic vacation of a lifetime for you, drop us a line!

Jewish Heritage in Italy and Italian Kosher Wine

Posted by gen On October - 25 - 2012

Italy has a unique place amongst European nations in Jewish history. The legacy of Jewish culture in Italy spans over two thousand years – from the early recorded Roman period to today. The country contains some of the oldest communities of Jewish citizens in Europe – over the centuries, Jewish communities in Italy have absorbed and welcomed Jewish groups expelled from Spain and Portugal, Eastern Europe, France and Germany.

Their presence has contributed significantly to Italy’s development throughout the ages, with Jewish culture playing an important social and economic role throughout Italy’s turbulent history, from the Dark-ages to fascism in the 20th century.

History records that the first Jewish settlers arrived in southern-Italy from Judea (part of modern day Israel) long before Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire. In the early years of the Roman Republic a thriving Jewish community lived in Rome with at least 10 synagogues to worship. Then, in 160 B.C. the Jewish leader Simon Maccabeus sent an embassy to Rome to strengthen the alliance with the Romans against the Syrians. The ambassadors received a warm welcome from the Roman Senate and from the existing Jewish community in Rome at the time. Although, the treatment of the Jews in Rome did fluctuate, they were allowed to live and worship, relatively free from harassment until Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire by Constantine I in 313 AD.

After that historic moment the position of Jews in Italy and throughout the empire declined rapidly. They were oppressed considerably until after the fall of the Roman empire, after which the dark ages yielded some respite for Rome’s, and indeed Italy’s Jewish communities. During the Dark Ages they were pockets of Jews in Rome, Milan, Genoa, Palermo and Messina in Sicily. When Milan came under the control of the Lombards, Jews were left to live in peace in the territories under their rule. Although the Lombard families embraced Catholicism, Jews were not persecuted and Pope Gregory I showed them respect and consideration. Although anti-Semitism began increasing throughout Europe from the 8th century, leading to great migrations of Jews from other European nations to Italy, Italian Jews enjoyed  comparably high standards of living.

In the Middle Ages, Rome’s Jews started to prosper as permission to trade and run businesses was given them. The majority of Rome’s Jews lived in the Trastevere neighborhood during this period, a district found on the west bank of the river Tiber, south of Vatican City. Despite the increasing anti-Semitism from the Church at this time,  towns such as Venice, Florence, and Genoa realized that their commercial interests were of more importance than politics of the Church and accordingly the Jews found their condition better than ever before.

Sadly this prosperity for Italy’s Jewish population would not last, by the early 16th century the Catholic church was fighting rising Protestantism and turned its attention to anything deemed a “heresy” or simply not contrary to the Catholic faith, including Judaism. In 1516,  the first ghetto was established in Venice and Jews were forced to live there, under harsh conditions. Poverty was rife and the resident Jewish community was striped of most of their rights and privileges.

Then, in 1555, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto in Trastevere,  forcibly moving all of Rome’s Jews into a cramped space on a few acres of land. They could not own property or run businesses and conditions were dire, many died of disease and starvation. Similar ghettos were erected around Italy and conditions didn’t improve dramatically until the 19th century. In 1848, after Napoleon had successfully taken and occupied Rome, the ghetto walls were torn down and the inhabits were allowed to move freely in the city.

After the Italian unification in 1870, Jews across Italy were granted full rights as Italian citizens. However in the 20th century, the rise of fascism in western Europe spelled dark times for Italy’s Jewish population, although they did not suffer as much as the German and Polish Jews. The Italian leader Mussolini instituted many anti-semitic laws as he allied himself to Hitler. The situation worsened after Mussolini was deposed, as the Nazis occupied southern Italy late in the second world war, and began instigating measures to deport the countries population to concentration camps. However, they met with resistance in many cities – in the Umbrian town of Assisi, Father Rufino Niccacci, sheltered 300 Jews during the war and gave them new identities and lives. Overall over 7,000 Jews became victims of the Holocaust.

Today, the Jewish population in Italy has recovered from the darkness of the mid 20th century and have left an incredible cultural mark on Italy’s towns and cities. Although the current community is relatively small, an estimate of around 45,000 – they are most definitely an important part of the Italian social landscape. The ghettos of Rome and Venice, the Jewish museum and synagogues all attract many visitors each year.

We start our tour with the birthplace of the Jewish arrival in Italy – Rome. The eternal city has over 22 centuries of Jewish heritage, which in addition to the classic sites of Rome – the Vatican, the colosseum, add up to an incredibly varied and almost overwhelming cultural experience. Although after the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome became the center of the Christian world, the Jewish community played an important role in Rome’s history. The oldest synagogue in Rome and possibly Italy, can still be visited. Then there is the ghetto, the largest in Italy and the Ponte Fabricio, not to mention the wealth of Jewish shops, kosher restaurants and guest-houses.

I’d suggest starting your Roman tour on on the east bank of the rive Tiber, near the Isola Tiberina (Island in the Tiber). This district, known as Trastevere houses the majority of Rome’s Jewish cultural attractions, including the synagogue and of course, the ghetto, constructed in the 16th century by Pope Paul IV. Although when Italy was unified in 1870 the ghetto was largely demolished, some of the streets remain as they were and make for a fascinating viewing, a leisurely stroll is the best way to sample Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Take a walk down Via del Portico d’Ottavia, the main through ware of the ghetto and notice kosher restaurants proudly serving carciofi (artichokes, a Jewish Roman specialism) and shops of fine, locally produced Judaica.  On Via San Ambrogio, there is also a small art gallery, promoting the works of young Israeli artists, well worth a detour. If you get peckish then check out the Jewish bakery on Piazza delle Cinque Scole.

You have already seen many wonders of the Jewish legacy, but before you leave make sure to visit the “Synagogue of Emancipation”, built after the ghetto was dismantled and completed in 1904. It is beautiful! Highlights include the impressive dome, painted with the colours of the rainbow and the museum. It contains historically significant artifacts, many of which were created by some of the finest artists at the time, as Jews were not allowed to be craftsman during the 16th-17th century.

A tour of Jewish Italy could continue with Venice, beautiful in its own right, Venice can lay claim to having the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe and a wealth of Jewish historical legacies. By the 12th century, Venice was an independent city-state, and through its control of the spice and silk trade from the East, became one of he riches trading nations in Europe, wealth that the Jewish business community helped to generated. Step back in time as you visit the ‘Scole’ or Synagogues of the Venetian ghetto that were constructed in the mid 17th century, each representing a different ethnic group that settled there. Today, the Ghetto is still the focal point for Venice’s Jewish community and contains several welcoming guest houses and kosher restaurants. Another highlight is the Renato Maestro Library, founded in 1981 it contains a wealth of resources on Judaism and it a must see for any Jewish visitor. Not to mention The Jewish Museum of Venice, founded in 1953 which gives visitors a fantastic insight into the Jewish communities in Venice over the centuries; how they have evolved and contributed to the great renown of this magical city.

Copyright Mario Camerini www.mariocamerini.it

The eager visitor, after marveling at the wonders of Venice should head to the small town of Ferrara, one of Emilia-Romagna’s greatest walled towns. It has a special significance in the region, as there has been a continuous Jewish presence from the Middle Ages to today. Jews were welcomed in the 15th century by the Duke of Ercole I d’Este and have left an impressive cultural legacy. There are three synagogues, contained within Ferrara’s ghetto, which were constructed in 1627 and was the obvious focal point of Jewish life in the town. There is also a wonderful Jewish museum, which although fairly small, houses many artifacts and exhibitions on Jewish culture through the ages. Access to the synagogue cannot be gained from the museum.

After Ferrara head for Bologna, capital of Emilia-Romagna and one of Italy’s most prosperous cities. Bologna has an impressive cultural heritage that includes a rich Jewish legacy that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the mid 14th century the Jewish population was enclosed in a ghetto by the authorities, but by the end of the 14th century they owned houses in all parts of Bologna and ran thriving businesses. Another example of how the importance of Jewish community to the commercial success of a city superseded the religious dogma of the time.

Well worth a look is the restored ghetto, containing craft shops with Jewish prints and other hints of new life in the old Jewish neighborhood. Restaurants and cafes abound, if you need a well earned pitstop! The only synagogue in the Bologna ghetto is another big draw for visitors, as is the recently opened (1999) Jewish Museum. It celebrates with colourful art and displays the history of Jewish community in Bologna and Italy, there is also a well stocked book and kosher store.

Of course no visit to Italy is complete without a tour of Tuscany. Our next port of call is Florence, a monument to the Renaissance, the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century. During this time Florence was the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe, its cosmopolitan atmosphere and wealthy patrons, such as the Medici, providing the impetus for a period of unparallelled cultural and artistic growth. The early Medici families were good friends of the Jewish community, so there are plenty of fascinating monuments and areas to explore in Florence after you have seen the Uffizi Museum and the Duomo.

A Jewish tour of Florence must start with the imposing Emancipation-era temple and the Jewish ghetto. Built in 1571 by the Cosimo de Medici, most, but not all of Florence’s Jewish population were moved into the ghetto in the 16th century. However, Jews in the ghetto had some freedoms and could build synagogues, schools and other public buildings as they saw fit. The spectacular, Moorish style synagogue in Florence is considered to be one of the finest in Europe. It was opened in 1882, the Moorish facade was based on the designs of the Byzantine cathedral in Constantinople. Jewish presence in Florence over the ages can also be witnessed first-hand in the two Jewish cemeteries (only open the first Sunday of every month) and an excellent Jewish museum and library.

The above is merely a snapshot of some of the main attractions of the Jewish legacy in Italy. However, there is another important aspect to this Italian discussion, which must not be omitted and that is kosher wine. This can be produced from any grape or Italian wine region, but crucially the wine must of course be produced according to Jewish dietary law, know as Kashrut.

For a wine to be certified kosher, a Sabbath-observant Jew must have been involved in the entire wine making process and any ingredient used, must be kosher. Although this was not formerly the case, today many famous Italian appellations and winemakers are making kosher wines, much of it exported as Italy has such a small Jewish population. Some to look out for include: Terra Di Seta Chianti, Chianti Classico, Tuscany; Rosh Aglianico, Campania; Batasiolo Barolo, Piedmont; Araldica Pinot Grigio, Piedmont; Fattoria Scopone Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany.

Nitra’e bekarov!

Sunday at the Farmers Market in Padernello castle

Posted by gen On July - 19 - 2012

Italy´s Gourmet Hamlets…..

By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Wine Tours Specialist

Italy is always full of surprises. You are driving through a relaxing bucolic agricultural corner of the country with only cornfields and cows to be seen, when suddenly in the middle of nowhere, you discover a “village gourmand”.

You are in Padernello: 76 residents, 1 crossroads lined with solid, thick-walled 17th and 18th century buildings, 1 church, a perfectly restored castle with its moat and drawbridge (and a ghost, of course!) and 5 restaurants (you are spoilt for choice)!

The lords of Brescia, the Martinengo family, built the castle in 1450 and lived in it until the 1800′s. There are many legends of the époque of the Martinengos, but the most famous is the legend of “la Dama Bianca”, who is now the ghost of the castle. Born in the late 1400´s, Bianca Maria was the daughter of Count Martinengo of Brescia. She was very beautiful, but delicate, thin and pale (“white as jasmine flowers” they wrote) and she had a sensitive soul, far removed from her family´s schemes and violent plots. She loved to spend her time praying and meditating; she had no interest in the material aspects of life. As day by day she was ever more fragile and sickly, her father sent her to her uncle Bernardino’s castle in the countryside in Padernello, to recuperate. It was November 1479 and Biancamaria was 13; she didn’t survive the summer and she passed away on the 20th of July, 1480, falling in the moat and drowning. Every July since then, Bianca Maria has appeared to the Padernello residents, dressed in a white gown, with a golden book in her hand.

After many years of neglect, the Nymphe foundation brought the castle to its ancient splendour and today it is a pristine, magical place, which offers many interesting activities throughout the year, from guided visits to theatre, from cinema to exhibitions, to medieval fairs and festivals and and of course food and wine tastings.

As soon as we walk in the castle, another surprise: the monthly farmers market is taking place!  It is part of Slow Food´s worldwide network of farmers’ markets, offering access to good, organic and fair food from local area.

 

Before we sat down to lunch, we visited the different stalls, chatting with the farmers and sampling delicious local foods. I particularly loved the traditional cured meats (coppa with honey, yumm) from Capriolo village, bread with taggiasche olives from Panificio Grazioli from Legnano, buffalo cheese from Manerbio and  sprouts from Marone. And of course casoncelli, I even got the recipe from the grannies making them!

Recipe for Casoncelli alla Bresciana (Casonsèi):

serves 6

for the pasta dough (recipe here) :

300 g white flour type 0
3 eggs
salt and pepper
100 gr butter

for the filling
200 gr of beef
100 gr of fresh pork sausage
1 carrot
1 celery stock,
1/2 onion
clove, nutmeg, bay
50 gr Grana or Parmigiano cheese (grated)
50 gr breadcrumbs
salt, pepper
1 egg
50 gr butter
2 spoons extra virgin olive oil

for the sauce
100 gr butter
sage

Instructions:

Thinly chop the vegetables, veal and sausages; in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 50 gr butter, add the vegetables, sauté and cook until brown on all sides. Add the copped meat and let drain. Add the wine, let it evaporate and then add the herbs, salt and pepper. Add some warm water ad let cook for about 1 hr, keeping it well drained. Transfer to a food processor and mince. Transfer to a bowl, add the grated cheese, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, a pinch of salt and pepper and mix by hand.

Prepare the pasta dough; roll out the basic pasta dough and cut it into squares (about 4-5 cm each side). Place teaspoonfuls of the filling in the middle of the squares. Moisten the edges of the dough with a little water, and fold into triangle. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Set aside, cover with a clean cloth, and let rest for 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a low boil. Add salt and the casoncelli, and cook for about 3/4 minutes. Drain well and toss with a sauce of butter and sage, sprinkle with cheese and serve. Enjoy!

Interview with Angelo Di Costanzo – Head Sommelier of the prestigious Capri Palace Hotel & Spa

Cellar Tours meet one of Italy´s brightest sommelier stars in beautiful Capri…


We had the pleasure recently to meet Angelo Di Costanzo in Anacapri on the roof terrace of the gorgeous 5* Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, where he has been the head sommelier since 2009. The hotel hosts also the 2 Michelin starred restaurant L’Olivo.

The youngest of 7 brothers, Angelo was born in Pozzuoli in 1975, he attended hotel school and, after working in several local restaurants, he became a certified AIS sommelier in 2001.

In 2008 he was awarded “Best Sommelier in Campania” and “Silver Pin – Charme Sommelier of Italy”. From 2002 to 2009, he run a great wine shop in Pozzuoli, L’Arcante, which is also the name of his fantastic food and wine blog, L´Arcante.

Sipping a glass of Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei Cruna DeLago, we began our chat:

1) CT- What made you choose wine as your passion? How did you become a sommelier? Why did you choose to stay and work in Campania? What excited you?

ANGELO- After some years of my work, I had the need to grow professionally and wine made me felt immediately so many emotions I decided to improve my knowledge and go deeper in that field. So everything started, studying, visiting wineries, walking in the vineyards. And I still cannot stop! Why did I choose to live and work in Campania? Well, what better experience is there than the opportunity to show your gorgeous region to guests coming from all over the world, staying home?

2) CT- What is unique about Campania in terms of food, wine and scenery? What can you find there that you can’t find in other places?

ANGELO- Campania is a very rich and generous region, still far from being over exploited or discovered. It is unique, with fabulous landscapes, terrific historic sites, welcoming people, amazing wines and gourmet products and a gastronomic tradition with such a huge variety it is very hard to find anywhere else.

3) CT- Which appellations, or general wine producing areas of Campania are your personal favorites and which of the local grape varietals do you enjoy most? Any particular wine you felt in love with?

ANGELO- Campania is the land of “100 local grapes”, an ampelographic treasure you cannot find anywhere else in the world. There are many wines you shouldn’t miss, each micro wine region, from Caserta to Naples, on Amalfi Coast to Irpinia, in Cilento or Sannio, offers its best, fine wines which are becoming more and more requested on the export markets, too.

Think of Falerno del Massico, but also  Amalfi Coast wines or Taurasi, the most important red wine of Southern Italy, made with aglianico, the most widely grown grape in the region. But you can find many other peculiar grapes: ginestra and palagrello for white grapes, piedirosso, casavecchia, marsigliese, tintore to name a few red ones. Unusual names, sometimes difficult to remember, producing very good wines, loved by guests who come to Capri from all over the world

4) CT-  Can you offer our readers any tips for enjoying Campania in terms of wines to look out for, favorite restaurants, etc?

ANGELO- Of course, nobody should miss Capri (!) , where I live and work , and Campi Flegrei, where I come from, plenty of interesting wineries to visit. I would suggest an excursion to Vesuvius, in Terzigno, to visit and have brunch at Villa Dora.Then, a visit to Caserta area, at Terre del Principe, an amazing winery, where you can also enjoy a traditional meal prepared by chef Maurizio Piancastelli.  In Irpinia, a drop in to Mastroberardino is a must, as well as to their wine resort and Morabianca restaurant with chef Francesco Spagnuolo.

Going south, you have to visit Cilento and its enchanting sea, stopping at a family run organic winery Casebianche, where you can also spend the night, Betty e Pasquale Mitrano will take good care of you. Last but not least, the Amalfi and Sorrento coast, where I particularly love Monte di Grazia wine estate in Tramonti, Marisa Cuomo in Furore and Vigne di Raito in Raito, close to Vietri sul Mare.

5) CT- What do you think the pros and cons of visiting Campania are and would you suggest it as a destination for wine lovers?

ANGELO- Pros are so many they are hard to list, Campania is absolutely a destination a wine lover cannot miss, to get and breath over 2000 of grape growing and wine making history. You can easily say that grape and wine were born here, thanks to the Greeks. I cannot see any cons, but I would like to give a true advice, especially to guests arriving from far away for the first time: put yourselves in good hands, as Cellar Tours, to organize the trip, the winery visits, the restaurants, sightseeing. This region offers a lot, but you need to know well the people, the wineries, the locations, not to waste your time.

6) CT- If you had to pick one favorite place in Campania, it would be…..

ANGELO- …. a very hard question! Every area has something special: in Campi Flegrei and Ager Falernus you find smoking soils and thousands years old wine anecdotes, in Irpinia amazing wineries, in Amalfi Coast and on the islands one of a kind landscapes, with vineyards suspended between sky and sea, in Cilento it is simply heaven … every one can find his own cup of tea.

7) CT- Your dream dinner paired with wines would be …

ANGELO- I am very proud to work here at Capri Palace and I would definitely recommend it for a gourmet highlight. Apart from Capri, I had several dinner extravaganzas: in Vico Equense at Torre del Saracino with Gennaro Esposito, but also at Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone, to name just a couple. Should I pick one only, anyway, I would choose Don Alfonso 1890 and the lovely Jaccarino family, in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, for its outstanding cuisine, the impeccable service, great sommelier Maurizio Cerio: a real dream!

Interested in a luxurious, gourmet food and wine vacation in Capri and the south of Italy? We organize wine tastings with Angelo in Capri and he can  also show our guests intimate small vineyards on the island, contact us for more info.

Off the beaten track in Sicily: Strada del Vino dei Castelli Nisseni

By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Wine Tours Specialist

I was invited this autumn to visit the “wine roads” (Strada del Vino) of Castelli Nisseni recently in southeastern Sicily, and couldn’t refuse. Sicily is one of  my favorite places in Italy, if not in Europe. On this trip I discovered some great wine estates, restaurants, and landscapes. Some highlights included the Falconara Charming House & Resort (overlooking a Norman fortress, unique and luxurious), colorful markets with Sicily’s tantalizing bright fruits on display, the view up towards the Mazzarino castle, the Feudo Principi di Butera wine estate which is in easy distance of other fascinating sights in Sicily like the ancient Roman mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the town of Caltagirone (famed for its beautiful pottery) and as always when in Sicily, great food! We will be incorporating some of the places I visited into our luxury wine tours in Sicily.

Off the beaten track in Sicily: Strada del Vino dei Castelli Nisseni

See the best of Western Sicily’s wine country here and a terrific romantic food and wine tour of Eastern Sicily here.  And enjoy this photo report of my recent trip.

Hope to see you in Sicily!

Mazzarino O Cannuni - Mazzarino Castle

Mazzarino O Cannuni - Mazzarino Castle

Street market Strata a' Foglia in Caltanissetta

Street market Strata a' Foglia in Caltanissetta

Fichi d'India- Rossi ed aranci

"Fichi d'India"- Prickly Pears

And here the Fichi d'India are cooked at Rsitorante Duomo in Caltanissetta

And here the Fichi d'India are prepared at Ristorante Il Duomo in Caltanissetta

Feudo Principi di Butera wine estate

Feudo Principi di Butera wine estate

Hand making "Torrone" in artisan Torrone producer in Caltanissetta

Hand making "Torrone" in artisan Torrone producer in Caltanissetta

Hand made lace in Mazarino

Hand made lace in Mazzarino

Delicious local cheeses made by the Marco Farchica dairy

Delicious local cheeses made by the Marco Farchica dairy

The Mayor of Mazzarino welcoming us

The Mayor of Mazzarino welcoming us

Falconara resort

Falconara resort overlooking the castle and the sea, with tropical flora

Lovely rooms at the Falconara resort

Lovely rooms at the Falconara resort

Vine at the Laguveri estate in a Nature Reserve

Vine at the Laguveri estate in a Nature Reserve

Mr Alessi showing us traditional ricotta cheese containers, made with bamboo and called "cavagnedda"

Mr Alessi showing us traditional ricotta cheese containers, made with bamboo and called "cavagnedda"

Market traders

Market traders

81 year old Mr Salvatore Siciliano showing us the traditional way to make a broom, with a kind of straw called locally as "giammarra"

81 year old Mr Salvatore Siciliano showing us the traditional way to make a broom, with a kind of straw called locally as “giammarra”

Merano Wine Festival 2010

Posted by gen On November - 26 - 2010

Notes and photos from this year´s outstanding wine fair at Merano

By Ivano Martignetti

Merano, or Meran as it is known in German (this is a border town in northern Italy), is a quaint little town off the beaten track in Alto Adige, where there are two words for everything and many things to experience, such as winter sports, fruit museums and culinary tours. But earlier this month Merano was completely dedicated to a unique event, where top quality is a must and style is everywhere: the Merano Wine Festival.

Merano wine festival

The first day of the festival was dedicated to organic and biodynamic wine producers and the quality of their wines impressed the lucky visitors including myself who had the opportunity to taste wines made from unusual grape varietials, like the “2009 La Vigna Ritrovata Colli di Scandiano e Canossa DOC”, made with 100% Spergola. This was a very fresh white wine obtained with the grapes cultivated in an ancient vineyard recovered by the owners of biodynamic producer  Tenuta di Aljano in Emilia Romagna.

Merano Wine Festival 2010

Over the next three days the Kurhaus in Merano was the magnificent stage for the elite of Italian and foreign wines, where wine lovers came from every corner of Italy and Europe to taste some of the best wines in the world in a very elegant setting and vibrant atmosphere. Passionate producers and an impeccable organization made the Merano Wine Festival a success.

This is truly an event to put in your calendar next year if you missed this one and are an Italian wine lover.

Given the overall quality of the wines at the Festival it would be difficult to pick favorites, but we cannot resist in mentioning a few wines that were truly exceptional and highly recommended:

·    Alois Lageder Pinot Noir “Kraffus” 2007

·    Winecircus Pigreco Sicilia IGT 2006

·    Villa Matilde Camarato Falerno del Massico DOC 2007

·    Terroir al Lìmit Torroja – Vi de la Villa 2006

·    Marco Felluga-Rossiz Superiore Molamatta Bianco Collio DOC 2009

·   Guerila Roma 2007

Merano Wine Festival 2010

Make a visit to the Merano wine fair a part of your overall visit to the fabulous wine regions of North East Italy. Some ideas for wine lovers include tours of Verona (including Trento, Valpolicella and Lake Garda appellations), Prosecco, and Friuli.

Some shots of the fair and the surroundings:

Merano wine festival

Merano wine festival

Merano wine festival

Merano wine festivalMerano wine festival

Robert V. Camuto, author of the critically acclaimed “Corkscrewed: Adventures in the New French Wine Country” has just released a book about the wine country in Sicily (Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey), one of our favorite places on earth.

We talked to him about his experiences in Sicily, asking him what makes the island, its wines and its people so special.

Robert Camuto

CELLAR TOURS- What made you choose Sicily as the location of your latest book, what excited you?

ROBERT- Sicily to me is a dramatic, magical place with a strong sense of history and tradition. I love Italy but have watched in recent years much of Italy has lost a bit of its soul and traditions. This hasn’t happened yet in Sicily.  From a wine standpoint what is exciting is that while Sicily is Italy’s largest wine region – and one of its oldest—in the last few years there has been an explosive renaissance of a new generation of winemakers rediscovering what they have and dramatically upping the quality of wine.

CELLAR TOURS- What is unique about Sicily, what can you find there in terms of terroir, winemaking techniques and methods that you can´t find in other places?

ROBERT- Sicily is unique in the sheer diversity of its terroirs and indigenous grapes. The best wines don’t taste at all like what you expect from southern wines—they are long and elegant and not at all heavy or jammy. This is true of the wines from the high slopes around volcanic Mount Etna to the rolling hills of the interior and the sloping hills of the southern coast. Then of course there is traditional Marsala, and brilliant sweet white wines from the Lipari islands and Pantelleria. In terms of winemaking techniques you can find everything from traditional palmenti—the old stone winemaking huts—to small artisanal producers to large state-of-the art wineries. Around Vittoria, COS is Italy’s number one producer making wines in clay amphorae as the Greeks and Romans did.  I think Sicily also benefits from having its renaissance after the whole craze of high alcohol woody wines.

Sicily

CELLAR TOURS- Which appellations, or general wine producing areas of Sicily are your personal favorites and which of the local grape varietals do you enjoy most?

ROBERT- Mount Etna has to be my favorite wine producing area. There is the highest concentration of quality producers—from Sicily as well as transplants from Tuscany, The Piedmont and other parts of Italy and Europe. The local Nerello Mascalese grape makes some of Italy’s most interesting reds often compared with Nebbiolo. In Vittoria the beautiful blending of Frappato and Nero D’Avola makes Cerasuolo di Vittoria—balanced easy drinking wines that have been grossly underrated by the critics.  For white wines, I love Carricante from Etna — crisp and full of minerals.

CELLAR TOURS- Can you offer our readers any tips for enjoying the wine country in Sicily in terms of wines to look out for, favorite restaurants, etc?

ROBERT- I think in the last 10 years Sicily has developed a real wine culture that is booming with its restaurant scene. (Though Sicily has some of Italy’s most elaborate cuisines, restaurants were pretty much a last resort for travelers).  For some of the most interesting wines, I would say to take a look at my book, which opens over a meal at one of my favorite restaurants—Sakalleo, a seafood and pasta lover’s dream on the southeastern coast in Scoglitti. A don’t miss restaurants for wine lovers is Nero D’Avola in Taormina. On Etna go to Boccaperta in Linguaglossa.  For high gastronomy the place is La Madia in Licata (near Agrigento).

CELLAR TOURS- What do you think the pros and cons of visiting Sicily are and would you suggest it as a destination for wine lovers?

ROBERT- Sicilians are wonderfully hospitable people. It’s a great place to discover wines and grapes you probably haven’t heard of in settings that are authentic. The cons for some people are that there are few structured “winery tours” are few and far between. There are no gift shops with t-shirts and ball caps and souvenir wine glasses.

CELLAR TOURS- How does Sicily differ from other Italian wine making regions like Tuscany, and what does it offer visitors in terms of food, wine and scenery?

ROBERT- I have been travelling to Tuscany for 25 years, and I think that parts of Tuscany have lost some of their originality drowned by too much tourism—Chiantishire.  Sicily is still comparatively wild with an incredible concentration history spanning a few thousand years—from Greek theaters to Arabo-Norman palaces. The street markets in Palermo are the most colorful I have ever been to.  The influences in the cuisines (you have to use the plural when talking about Sicily) combine sweet and savory to incredible effect. I love, for example, the orange salads of winter (with olives and onions and olive oil) or the traditional dishes like pasta con sarde, or just going to a café for a lunch of arancine (rice balls) followed by a cold granita.

Sicily

CELLAR TOURS- If you had to pick one favorite place in Sicily, it would be…..

ROBERT- I am partial to the eastern side of the island: Mount Etna, the sea, Catania, ferries that will take you to the outer islands—all within an hour of each other.

Thank you. Robert for your insight and tips, it was a pleasure!


Wine lovers, why not add one or both of these terrific books to your gifts list for the holidays?

Palmento

Merano Wine Festival 2010- “the” wine event of the season for Italian wine lovers

By Ivano Martignetti

Wine Festival Italy

The most elegant and exclusive wine event in Italy is just around the corner, from the 5th to the 8th of November, the Merano Wine Festival.  The magnificent Kurhaus is an incredibly elegant venue for the event and exclusive as not all producer are eligible to participate.  Indeed producers are required to send their samples to the examining commission of the MWF and if their wines receive a score of more than 86/100 they can participate, with no more than 3 wines for each winery.

The actual score is not available to the public, to allow everyone to have their own idea without being influenced by the evaluation of the expert examiners, but the highest level of quality is guaranteed by the work done months before the beginning of the event.

This year 1.317 top quality wines will be presented in Merano, with 370 Italian producers, 35 top producers of the “Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux”, 100 producers from the best wine regions in the world. Moreover, the Gourmet Arena will host food artisans’ stalls, artisanal breweries, grappa and distillates. The wine tourism aficionados this year in Merano will receive a treat, the presentation of exceptional wine resorts.

Italy wine festival
To prepare for this major wine event, we suggest trying  some of the Alto Adige/Süd Tirol wines that you’ll be able to taste during the Merano Wine Festival and in the restaurants of the area, should you decide to stay in Merano longer than the duration of the event.

Italy wine festival

Our top wine picks:

·    Baron de Pauli, “Arzio”, Cabernet-Merlot.
·    Elena Walch, “Blauburgunder” Alto Adige DOC 2008, Pinot Noir 100%.
·    Nals Margreid, “Baron Salvadori Gewürztraminer”, Gewürztraminer 100%
·    Kloster Neustift, “Südtiroler Lagrein Mariaheim”, Lagrein 100%.

Hope to see you there!

Info on the Merano Wine Festival here.

Notes from last year´s Merano event here.

While in the region, we can organize an exclusive day (or longer tour)  of wine touring with driver, Mercedes and private visits to top estates in Northern Italy. Contact us for more info.

Italy wine festival

Love Italian Cooking? Want to dedicate yourself to making Italian recipes from scratch, and need a list of the essential kitchen “musts” for gadgets and ingredients?

Here is our essential list, and readers: please send in your tips and advice so we can make the list even more complete!

Lavazza

THE ITALIAN PANTRY- CHECK LIST

1. Fresh herbs: basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, oregano, bay leaves, marjoram

2. Fruit and veg in season like:  fruit and veg in season, like garlic, onion, celery, carrot, Peperoncino (small chili peppers) lemons-  ALL YEAR ROUND; eggplant (aubergine), red peppers, zucchini (courgette), tomatoes (S. Marzano) figs- SUMMER ;  fennel,peas – SPRING;  radicchio, rocket,  spinach, butternut squash, endives, orange- AUTUMN AND WINTER

3 Cherished Italian food brands: Lavazza coffee (you can buy the beans and grind yourself), Illy (coffee), Bei & Nanini (coffee), Gerardo di Nola (pasta), Annalisa (canned tomatoes), Menabrea (beer), Baladin (beer), Mutti (passata), San Pellegrino (mineral water) , Nutella, Cedroni (sauces and preserves), Brezzo specialty foods, Prunotto (honey and jams).

4. Condiments: Extra virgin olive oil, Olive Oil, Truffle olive oil, Balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico tradizionale di modena), butter (yes, butter!), black pepper mill, course sea salt, fine salt, Mostarda, etc. Here are some original and fabulous condiments from the Accademia Barrilla gourmet shop.

5. Small gadgets: mezzaluna cutter, scolapasta (pasta strainer), Ravioli wheel, pizza stone, pestle and mortar (stone or wood), mandolin, mozzarella slicer, Ravioli tin, Bodum Parma cheese grater, garlic press, pasta serving spoon, parmesan knife, peppermill.

6. Bigger gadgets: tirasfoglia (pasta machine), Espresso maker, De ‘ Longhi coffee maker, pizza oven.

7. Other Food ingredients to have in the pantry: canned tomatoes , passata (Mutti), anchovies, Colatura di alici, Capers from Salina, Cucunci from Salina, olives, chicken bouillon, canned cannellini beans, canned garbanzos (chickpeas), lentils, Pancetta or guanciale, Prosciutto di Parma, Bresaola, Salami, Italian sausages, cornmeal (farina gialla), Italian ‘OO’ Flour, Nutella, canned tuna, polenta, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, saffron.

8. Italian cheeses for cooking: Parmigiano, Pecorino, Mascarpone, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Taleggio, etc. More Italian cheese info here.

9. Pasta: Spaghetti, Penne, Rigatoni, Tagliatelle, Ditalini, etc- see more pasta here;  and good brands include Setaro, Garofalo, Pastai Gragnanesi, Senatore Cappelli, Martelli, etc. EASY TO FIND- Barilla  and De Cecco

10: Rice: Arborio and Superfino Carnaroli

11. Cooking wines: Dry Marsala, Moscato

12. Drinks Cellar: White wines (Friuli super whites, Falanghina from Campania, Gavi from Piedmont), Red wines (recommended wine estates here), Campari, Vermouth, Amaretto, Limoncello (keep in the freezer), etc. More on Italian spirits and liqueurs here.

13. Some Italian cookbooks we love: The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, La Cucina: The Traditional Home Cooking of Italy by Italian Academy of Cuisine, Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking: Quick and Simple Meals to Feed Family and Friends  by Gennaro Contaldo, Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food by Antonio Carluccio and Priscilla Carluccio.

14. Italian Culinary Tours: learn how to cook with the locals in Tuscany, Umbria, Lake Garda, Portofino, Modena, Milan, Venice and a Grand Gastronomic Tour of Italy´s Culinary Treasures.

Other useful links:

Alessi kitchenware

Mario Batali´s Italy

Italian Cooking Made Easy

A-Z Italian food Glossary

The Italian Kitchen

Val d’ Orcia- Tuscany at its most romantic

Posted by gen On March - 7 - 2010

The Val d ‘ Orcia, featured today in the NY Times, is quintessential Tuscany and utterly romantic.  Expect dreamy hills studded with cypress trees and ancient farmhouses; a smattering of gorgeous art cities and medieval towns in easy reach (Siena, Pienza, San Quirico D’ Orcia, Montepulciano, Montalcino); world class wine country (Brunello, anyone?); amazing cheese country (this is the land of Pecorino) and supremely atmospheric drives.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit this breathtaking region yet, then we cannot recommend it enough! This is also THE destination for special occasions- anniversaries, honeymoons, wedding proposals, family reunions…

Tuscany

A quick guide to the Val d’ Orcia for food and wine lovers:

WHEN TO GO: Autumn is the ultimate time to visit for wine lovers as the vineyards are at their most beautiful, the wineries have a real buzz, the weather is generally still sunny but deliciously fresh (perfect for the region´s rich red warming wines). Winter is very cold but a great time to enjoy the food and captivating landscapes without the stifling summer crowds. Spring is gorgeous.

WHERE TO STAY: You can use a few different places as bases, either in town or countryside. We love the Grand Hotel Continental in Siena for old world charm, the luxury Il Borgo at Castello Banfi (also a wine estate, near Montalcino) and the darling little Palazzo del Capitano in the delicious hamlet of San Quirico d’ Orcia.

Tuscany

WHAT TO DO: Wine tasting is obviously a big pull and many wineries open to the general public like Banfi, Barbi and Poggio Antico (which also has a great restaurant) in Montalcino.  For visiting  cult wineries (like Casanova di Neri) and more special visits, book a luxury private wine tour in Montalcino or lesser known Montepulciano. The artistic treasures in the towns of Siena and Pienza are also a “must”. Hiring a local art guide is a fantastic way to discover the local anecdotes and secret corners too.  Renting a villa for a week in Val d´Orcia and spending quiet days cooking, shopping at local markets, wine tasting and relaxing is also an unforgettable way to enjoy the region to the fullest.

WHAT TO BUY: Rare Brunello, artisan cheeses, wild boar cured ham (prosciutto di cinghiale), Terracotta in Siena: and then fine products from other parts of Tuscany (olive oil from Lucca, hand made masks from Florence, antiques and gold from the countless markets, etc).

Tuscany

More info:

Italy travel tips

Wineries in Tuscany

Perfect Valentine’s Brunch

Posted by gen On February - 13 - 2010

Ideas for a romantic brunch to celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day-

Brunch at home can be even romantic than dinner out, and is a wonderful idea for this Valentine`s weekend. But what to make? What wines  to serve?

How to make it the perfect Valentine`s Day Brunch?

Begin the late morning with crèpes, rolled with strawberries and freshly whipped cream. You can stir in a chocolate or almond based Italian liqueur to the cream…

Romantic Valentine`s Brunch

Toast with pink bubbly, we adore Pommery Rosé. Add to the feeling of special occasion with beautiful champagne glasses and rose petals on the tablecloth…

Romantic brunch for Valentine's day

Continue with Lobster Bisque, a colorful, beautiful and very romantic dish…

Romantic brunch

This dish, believe it or not, pairs well with dessert wines such as the fabulous Barsac/Sauternes wines from Château Coutet

Chateau CoutetOr, if you don’t want to do sweet wine before red wine, carry on with the champagne!

For the savory main course, how about delicate grilled baby lamb chops with rosemary?

Romantic brunch

… paired with something fabulous like Casanova di Neri`s Brunello di Montalcino. Oh, yeah!

Romantic brunch

and finish off your romantic Valentine`s day brunch with some kisses, Baci- the chocolate that says it all.

Romantic brunch