1. Recommended Wine: Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily
2. Winery Profile: Casanova di Neri, Montalcino, Italy
3. Wine Tasting Tours: Verona and Amarone Wine Tasting Weekends
4. City Profile: Bologna, Italy
5. Hotel Highlight: Luxury Hotel Marques de Riscal, Spain
6. Restaurant Review: Viridiana, Madrid, Spain
7. Culinary Tours: Umbria, Italy
8. Gourmet Corner: La Loja do Vinho, Sintra, Portugal
9. What’s in Season: Radicchio
10. Cocktail Recipe: The Bellini, Venice, Italy
Cillian Mc Carthy

What's New At Cellar Tours:

This past quarter, owners Des and Genevieve McCarthy welcomed their first son Cillian Daniel McCarthy, born on July 27. This was of course the biggest news of the year! Our team has, as always, been diligently exploring new wineries, restaurants, hotels and idyllic wine country spots for our clients over the last few months. We found aristocratic wine cellars set in pristine valleys in Trento, northern Italy. For serious VIPs we are pleased to continue offering our popular helicopter wine tours in Lisbon, Priorat, Chianti and the Maremma. Umbria was fantastic as always and we can´t wait to show you the charming olive oil “Frantoios” we discovered, the fairy tale villages like Bevagna and some luxurious small hotels. Redibis and Vissani are two of our newest favorite restaurants!

For all you Amarone lovers, we have included many more wineries into our Cellar Tours preferred cellars portfolio and have developed more routes like Opera and Wine (enjoy a “once in a lifetime” experience like opera at the ancient Roman “Arena” in Verona with Amarone wine tasting and unbelievable food). North of Barcelona we have discovered some fantastic corners for you including Michelin starred restaurants and quaint villages. We are launching a “Catalan Wine Connoisseurs Tour” to include a week of the best the region has to offer such as wineries and gourmet hot spots in Priorat, Penedès, Alella and Empordà. And watch out for an upcoming tour “Art, Wine and Design”, a fabulous tour of Spain´s best art museums, wine regions and design hotels.

What´s On:

Europe celebrates many wonderful food and wine events in autumn, and if planned properly can be incorporated into your gourmet tour. Here are some upcoming events

In October and November, the world famous White Truffle Fair and auction takes place in Alba, Piedmont. Celebrities, chefs and foodies descend on this picturesque wine region. Another excellent truffle festival takes place in the beautiful Tuscan village of San Miniato from Nov 10-11. Attention chocolate lovers: Nov 2-12 the annual Chocolate Festival takes place in lovely, medieval Óbidos, Portugal. For wine lovers and professionals, the Iber Wine fair in Madrid (Nov 13-15) is getting bigger every year, with many producers present and offering tastings. A huge Vino Novello (new wines) fair takes place in gorgeous Vicenza (home of Palladio) from Nov 4-5. San Sebastian celebrates the mythical Feria de Gastronomía from Nov 19-23 and the world´s most famous chefs come to compete for the awards, also open to the food loving public. There are a multitude of big and prestigious olive oil festivals including: Las Jornadas del Olivar in the pretty Andalusian town of Baena (Nov 16-18)

1. Recommended Wine: Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily

Ben Rye Pantelleria

Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria

The Sicilian island of Pantelleria is one of Europe´s wildest and loveliest islands. Located halfway between Tunisia and Sicily, the island’s 11 villages retains nearly all their Arab names such as Khamma, Bukkuram, Bugeber and Rekhale. The Arabs brought grapes to the island in the 8th century AD, which they used to cultivate raisins. They ruled the island until the Norman invasion, but lived in co existence with Christians and Jews until the 15th century expulsion ordered by Spain. The method of grape drying for raisins, evolved into partial grape drying for sweet wines. The Zibibbo (Moscato de Alessandria) grapes are used to make the sweet dessert wines called “Passito di Pantelleria. After the grape harvest, the bunches are laid to dry in the sun and wind for up to a month, which concentrates the level of sugar. The must is then left to macerate until the winemaker is happy with the balance of alcohol and sugar, and then fermentation is purposely stopped. The resulting wine is next left to age and mature for an additional number of months until it has the depth, finesse and intense bouquet desired by the winemaker.

Pattelleria Vineyard with a view

Pantelleria vineyard with a view

There are many producers, but the best one is Donnafugata (a top Sicilian winery, making a number of other excellent wines on the mainland). Their Ben Ryé (“Son of the Wind”, in Arabic) is a superb example of Passito di Pantelleria. About 35, 000 bottles of this delicious nectar are made per year. Visually, the wine is a bright amber gold. On the nose, you´ll get the fresh aroma of peaches and orange peel. On the palate, soft nuances of honey, dates, dried figs, apricots and a citrussy extra long finish. This is a full bodied and sophisticated wine, which can be served as an aperitif or as a dessert wine.

Wine Style:Sweetie
Appellation:DOC Passito di Pantelleria
Region:Pantelleria island, Sicily, Italy
Grape Varietals:Zibibbo (Moscato de Alessandria)
Pairing:Foie Gras, Zabaglione, Cannoli, Aged cheeses

2. Winery Profile: Casanova di Neri, Montalcino, Italy

Cellars in Casanova di Neri, Montalcino, Tuscany

Cellars in Casanova di Neri, Montalcino, Tuscany

Voted best wine of the year by Wine Spectator in 2006, this high end Brunello di Montalcino producer has been well known to wine collectors for years. The lovely estate is run by Giacomo Neri and the wines are considered by many wine writers to be “modern style” Brunellos, although they still benefit from ageing. Sangiovese Grosso is the only grape used to make their superb wines including their flagship Brunello, the Tenuta Nuova and Cerretalto, and the youthful Rosso di Montalcino. Cab Saub dominates the cult wine PietradOnice.


We organize VIP Mercedes chauffeured tours of Montalcino to include top estates like Casanova di Neri, contact us for more info.

3. Wine Tasting Tours: Verona and Amarone Wine Tasting Weekends

Amorone Grapes

Amorone Grapes

Verona is one of Italy´s most elegant cities and is a must for wine lovers as it is in Amarone country, Italy´s gorgeous off dry red. Made with the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the country´s noble wines. Many of the estates are beautiful villas and this part of the Veneto region is rich in scenery and superb restaurants. On this suggested itinerary you will enjoy a long weekend based in Verona. You´ll have your own private driver and chauffeured Mercedes, to relax and enjoy the drive to the Valpolicella wine region. Also included is a visit to an aristocratic estate located in a lush valley near Trento and a private guided tour of Verona with your own art guide. Verona is home to the 2nd best preserved Roman Arena after Rome and there are a multitude of monuments and museums to visit, not to mention fabulous shopping...


4. City Profile: Bologna, Italy

Neptune statue, main piazza Bologna, Italy

Neptune statue, main piazza Bologna, Italy

Probably our favorite city in all of Italy, Bologna is an exuberant and happy town. Its residents revel in food and wine and the town is famous for its tortellini and tagliatelle (alla Bolognese), its Mortadella and its love of all things foodie “the nickname of Bologna is “la Grassa”, the “fat one”). Bologna´s outdoor markets are a visual treat and its restaurants mythical to foodies. The graceful and pretty town is located in Emilia Romagna, the “gourmet heartland” where Parma and Culatello ham, Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano cheese all originate. Bologna is also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, which can be visited along with many other beautiful palaces, medieval towers and museums. We cannot encourage you enough to visit the delightful city of Bologna and we include it in our “Grand Gourmet Tour of Italy”, contact us for more info.

Complete City Profile of Bologna

City Profile of Bologna

5. Hotel Highlight: Luxury Hotel Marques de Riscal, Spain

Riscal Hotel, La Rioja, Spain

Ultra modern Hotel Riscal

Calle Torrea, 1
Elciego 01340, Spain

Tel: +34 945 180880

The sleepy and picturesque village of El Ciego in Spain´s Rioja wine region is now home to one of the most avant-garde structures in Spain- Frank Gehry´s new hotel at the Marqués de Riscal winery. Gehry has designed a “City of Wine” of which the titanium hotel, the 19th century winery, and a “Wine Spa” are within. This is considered to be Gehry´s masterpiece, after his cutting edge Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year. The 43 room small hotel is a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Luxury Collection. While the minimalist and futuristic design may not appeal to those looking for a classic hotel such as the Maria Cristina of San Sebastian (another Starwood property), this hotel has already become a landmark and is a unique place to stay during your wine tour of Northern Spain. The restaurant is run by José Ramón Piñeiro under the guidance of Michelin starred chef Francis Paniego of Echaurren. The wine spa is under the Caudalíe brand (of the Bordeaux wine spa hotel fame) and you can get all kinds of treatments Bacchus would love including a grape bath. Other facilities and services include an indoor heated pool, wine therapy massages, free Wifi, 24 hour room service, Jacuzzi and steam room, and bicycle rental (to ride through the vines). Rooms are equipped with plasmas, DVD players, marble bathrooms and Wifi.

6. Restaurant Review: Viridiana, Madrid, Spain

Abraham Garcia, Viridiana Restaurant, Madrid

Abraham Garcia, Viridiana Restaurant

Abraham Garcia is the world famous chef who runs Madrid’s excellent Viridiana restaurant on a quiet street just next to the beautiful Retiro Park (Madrid’s answer to Central Park). The restaurant is a landmark in Madrid’s culinary scene and is named after the Luis Buñuel film classic Viridiana (his first feature film which was subsequently banned under the dictator Franco). Movie stills line the walls of the restaurant, as Abraham is a major film buff. Garcia is well known to foodies and gourmet travelers, and this restaurant attracts a fun mix of socialites, celebrities, politicians, and foreign visitors. What we particularly love about Viridiana is that while the food is creative and delightfully surprising, it never ventures on the absurd (no smoke or foam here!).

Viridiana restaurant, Madrid

Viridiana Restaurant, Madrid, Spain

Calle Juan de Mena, 14
28014 Madrid, Spain

Tel: +34 91523 44 78

The atmosphere is relaxed and informal and the better tables are in the cellar downstairs. Some of Abraham’s signature dishes include maple smoked duck pate on homemade vanilla bread with rose chutney, free range eggs on a boletus mousse with black truffle shavings, Iberian pork steak filled with the gorgeous Torta del Casar cheese from Extremadura and grilled figs, and Greek yogurt ice cream drizzled with Pedro Ximenez. The Wine cellar is superb with hundreds of wines on offer including some biggies like Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Cristal champagne, Petrus, Grange and Barca Velha. If you like the dishes and speak Spanish, you should buy Abraham’s cookbooks including “El Placer de Comer” (The pleasure of eating) and 100 Recetas para Quitarse el Sombrero (100 recipes to take your hat off to). Garcia also brands an excellent extra virgin olive oil. Don´t miss this restaurant while in Madrid.

7. Culinary Tours: Umbria, Italy

Ricotta cheese cake, Gourmet Umbria

Ricotta cheese cake

Umbria is one of the most beautiful and relaxing regions in Italy, and a fantastic destination for food and wine lovers. Amid the gentle rolling hills you’ll find the art cities of Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto and Spoleto, wonderful towns full of spectacular architecture and charming eateries. Enjoy the patchwork scenery of vineyards and olive groves, as his is a region known both for wines (the zippy white wines of Orvieto and serious reds of Montefalco) and olive oil (exquisite extra virgin olive oil is made here and we organize visits to the “Frantoios”). There are some absolutely fantastic restaurants which we will of course take you to such as the 3 Michelin starred Vissani, and the beautiful Redibis restaurant in the fairy tale hamlet of Bevagna. On this private tour you will have your own chauffeur and you will see, do and taste the best Umbria has to offer.

More on this Culinary Tour of Umbria:

Unbria Culinary Tours

More on the wine country of Umbria:

Umbria Wine Region

8. Gourmet Corner: La Loja do Vinho, Sintra, Portugal

Loja do Vinho Wine Shop Sintra, Portugal

Loja do Vinho

Praça da Republica nº 3,
Vila de Sintra, 2710 Sintra,

Tel: +351 21 925 55 10

Sintra is one of Portugal’s prettiest towns, known for its outrageous Palacio do Pena palace (reminiscent of a Bavarian castle), its picturesque old town and its fabulous mansions and palaces nestled into the lush forest landscape. We always include Sintra in our luxurious food and wine tours of Portugal, and it is easily combined with a tour of Lisbon, pretty Cascais, the medieval town of Óbidos, the Palace of Queluz, and the wine country of Alentejo. A place we love to bring guests to is the Loja do Vinho, a superb little wine and gourmet shop right in the old town. The selection here is incredible and there are some interesting wines for collectors like 1952 Ramos Pinto Port, 40 year old Taylor’s, Tapada Chaves from Alentejo, the mythical Quinta Bacalhoa, Casa de Saima from Bairrada, and Quinta Roques from Dão. The shop is close to the cute Café de Paris, a nice spot for lunch.

We organize VIP Wine Tastings here as part of the Mercedes chauffeured private tours of Portugal, ask us for more info.

9. What’s in Season: Radicchio

What’s in Season: Radicchio


Radicchio comes into season in autumn and is a delicious and beautiful vegetable. A staple in the Mediteranean diet, radicchio has been cultivated for millennia. Pliny the Elder wrote about the medicinal benefits of radicchio, for purifying blood and for being a natural tonic. Called Red Chicory in English, there are many different types of Italian Radicchio (especially from the Veneto region) including Radicchio di Chioggia, Radicchio di Treviso, and Radicchio di Castelfranco. Visually it is similar to an Endive, but is a rich burgundy color. Radicchio is on the top ten list of “Super Foods” (along with almonds, spinach, blueberries, etc) and it is extremely rich in potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A and antioxidants. This versatile vegetable can be served cold in salads (such as Radicchio, Pear and Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola), in soups (such as the delicious Pumpkin and Radicchio di Treviso soup), baked (with pancetta and rich cheese) and even served in risotto (a classic Veneto dish is Risotto al Radicchio). The flavor is slightly bitter and piquant, especially when served raw.

10. Cocktail Recipe: The Bellini, Venice, Italy

Bellini Cocktail

Bellini Cocktail

One of the most famous, simple and elegant cocktails in the world, the Bellini was invented in Venice at the mythical “Harry’s Bar”. The name Bellini is in homage to the master Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini. The name was coined by the head barman at Harry´s from the 30s to 40s. He thought the salmon pink color of the drink reminded him of the colors in a Bellini painting, and voilá- the Bellini cocktail. Harry’s Bar in Venice has had many famous visitors come try the Bellini- from actors, celebrities and royalty. Two of its most famous (or infamous) regulars included Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.


1 oz. White Peach Puree + 4 oz. Prosecco bubbly

The puree should be ice cold and you spoon in the puree first, then add the wine on top. You can garnish with sliced strawberries, and can also add a few drops of cherry juice to brighten up the drink, enjoy.

11. Custom Designed Gourmet Tours in Spain, Italy and Portugal

Tempranillo grapes on vine

Tempranillo grapes on vine

If you would like us to customize a luxury wine tour for you (in Spain, Portugal or Italy), contact us with your requirements, and we can send you a free itinerary and quote with no obligations.

We organize chauffeured wine tours and luxurious cooking vacations. Private tours, just for you....

Let us show you our favorite gourmet corners in Europe!

Cellar Tastings S.L.
Address: Infantas, n. 27, 3 Derecha,
28004 Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34 91 521 3939
Fax: +34 91 521 4757

Email: [email protected]

Contact us today!

CELLAR TASTINGS S.L. is a Fully Licensed and Bonded Tour Operator and Travel Agency, and a proud member of ASTA and the IACP.