Food and Wine Talk Radio

Monday, June 22, 2015

Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia, Campania, Italy

This is a "Casatiello", made with ham, cheese and bread dough, studded with eggs. 

A typical Easter bread in Campania. It was baked specially to host us journalists - participants of the Campania Stories 2015 - by Rossana Lonardo, wife of Sandro Lonardo, owner and winemaker of Cantine Lonardo, Contrade di Taurasi,in the heart of the DOCG appellation of Taurasi, in the hilly volcanic appellation of Irpinia in Campania.

The bread, a hearty bowl of pasta and veal grilled on the chimney coals, were a foil to the superb wines...


Contrade di Taurasi is a family-owned five-hectare farm that the Lonardo Family cultivates organically on a volcanic soil with a low yield per hectare.  

Professor Alessandro (Sandro) Lonardo, a retired teacher of Latin and Literature, returned to his birth place in the ancestral family estate established in the heart of Taurasi for umpteen generations, and with his wife’s encouragement began planting vines in the rich volcanic agricultural land that had seen history, cultures and powers come and go, thrive and shrivel like seasonal fruit.  The brand “Contrade di Taurasi” was born in 1998.  

But being a teacher by trade and the father of two academicians: one daughter is a scientist, the other an archeologist, Sandro was convinced that wine, like people, can be brought to higher levels of quality and performance through work, research and hands-on experimentation.   Sandro knew he could work hard, but he also realized that he had so much time left to grow good vintages.  

So he tapped unto the knowledge and experience of departments of oenology at The Federico II University of Naples and the University of Palermo, to improve on the traditional vine-growing technique and the new agronomical and oenological techniques while maintaining a strict organic philosophy both in the fields and in the cellar.

The result are gorgeous, elegant handcrafted wines,  with a purplish hue, a nose of cherries and prunes and a silky mouthful of ripe fruit with hints of tobacco, leather, red underwood fruit  and wild herbs, tannings tempered by a lively acidity and a long, long finish.  The grapes are all sourced from the Lonardo estate, and the wines earn highly-prestigious medals and awards, nationally and internationally.

Aglianico is the most important native grape variety in Taurasi and at the core of the Taurasi DOCG appellation and produces his Aglianico, the  Taurasi Riserva, which is only produced on peak harvest years (I had the privilege of tasting the phenomenal Taurasi Riversa 1999) , the table wine Aglianico Irpinia DOC and the incomparable single vineyard  Vigne D’Alto, which I also had the privilege to taste with Sandro and his wife.
But The Grecomusc’ is in its own league and deserves a special word.  

The Lonardos are the only winemakers producing this amazing white wine!  It comes from native ungrafted vines with gnarled branches, thick trunks, and roots burrowing into layers of lava and clay, as deep as time. 

It tastes like no other wine and every drop of the yellow greenish wine draws from ancient times. An ample nose of passion fruit and citrus gives way to a deep minerality and sulfurous whiffs. In the mouth, it deploys in all in richness with a lively, young acidity and complex tannins.  This wine can stand to any food, from rich boar to delicate pear tart! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mellow Mushrooms continue to sprout up, this time in South Miami. Their mission is always the same: to serve stone-baked, classic Southern pizzas with cool beers in a funky atmosphere. 
In South Miami they’ve added  54 brews available from local breweries like Cigar City Brewery, Miami Brewing Co., Funky Buddha, SweetWater, Dogfish Head and  the Alien self-serve tap bar features 4 rotating craft beer brands you can pour for yourself all night long. 
Another addition:  Mellow’s specialty drinks  and “munchies” like Spinach Artichoke Dip, Bruschetta and Oven Roasted Wings. Fun hoagies such as the Spiked Sausage and the Righteous Portobello Reuben, salads and desserts.
Mellow Mushrooms is open Sun-Tue, 11 a.m.- 12 a.m., Wed- Sat, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m., 5701 Sunset Drive, Miami, FL 33143.  305.667.3274 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tenuta di Bibbiano, Chianti, Winemaker's Lunch with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi.

Tenuta di Bibbiano, Castellina in Chianti, Winemaker's Lunch with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Organic farming makes for delicious wines especially when grown in the superb Chianti Classico terroir of Bibbiano,
Castellina in Chianti, overlooking the medieval city of Siena and the fabled towers of San Gimigniano. 
The grapes - Sangiovese, Colorino and Sangiovese Grosso - are hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel, cement vats and French oak. All are DOCG.
The wines pair superbly with food, from antipasti, pizza, risotto, grilled meats and fish to desserts.
Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese 95% and Colorino 5%. Surprising and delicious nose, unmistakably Chianti with fruity notes and aromas of red fruit;well-balanced, fresh and versatile on the palate with all the chianti characteristics. Another surprise: fermentation and maturation were in cement vats, followed by 3 months on the bottle. No wood whatsoever!
Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello 2012 . 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard: Montornello. Elegant, mineral with lots of fruit and spicy notes of black pepper, tobacco and cocoa. Sweet tanins tempered by a lively acidity. Long finish in the mouth.  Maceration on the skins followed by fermentation in French oak for 18 months and 4 months in the bottle. 
Bibbiano Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2011 - 100% Sangiovese Grosso. This wine represents all that the winery stands for: elegance, purity, intensity and deep and complex flavors. Barrel fermentation for 24 months and in the bottle for 6 months give this ruby red, full-bodied wine an intense nose of black and red fruit with spices, tobacco, cocoa and some minerality.  Well structured and elegant with silky tannins and plenty of complex fruit and minerality. 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Tartempion. Or what's in a name?

Tartempion is a fictitious character, often featured in 19th century French literature, especially in comedies, and was made famous by the satirical journal Charivari between 1849 and 1850.  The name was then commonly used to designate just about any obscure or non-existing character. A nobody.

My father – who had a whole library of Georges Courteline’s “ Les Tribunaux Comiques”  –  used it often to ward off pesky questions and it stuck.  I even use it today, in the 21st century, when one of my grandchildren overhears a conservation and butts in asking “who are you talking about?”  I always shoot back: “Tartempion.” 

Nobody.   Then, on a cold and windy May in Montmartre, Paris,  as we were walking down the umpteen steps of the Sacré Coeur looking for the least touristy place to sit and have something hot, I was enthralled to see the sign:  "Tartempion" on a nondescript café.  Of course, I went in.

It was a Tartempion through and through! And what's worse, food and beverage too.

The lace maker in Burano, Venetian Lagoon

Every day, Emma Vidal, one of the last lace makers, sits with her dwindling group of friends at the Merletto Museum in Burano, to make exquisite gossamer-like lace and gossip. doesn;t she look like Vermeer's 17th century painting of a lace maker? a little older, a different way of holding the delicate work - a pillow vs. a wooden stand -, the fingers are gnarled by age and humidity, but they are both engrossed in the minutia of their art. 

Since the time of Venetian Republic, Burano had only 8000 poor inhabitants (now 3000) predominantly fishermans and farmers. But thanks to the craft of lace workers, the island grew economically, exporting its fantastic laces all over the world.

The Museo Merletto located in the historic palace of Podestà of Torcello, in Piazza Galuppi, Burano, seat of the famous Burano Lace School until 1970, displays rare and precious lace pieces and an overview of the history and artistry of the Venetian and lagoon’s laces, from its origins to the present day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rialto Market Venice Italy - The artichoke dance


It is in spring that the Rialto marketplace in Venice reaches its paroxysm of abundance. But no matter what season it is it, this market - with vendors hawking their wares displayed on stalls almost caving under the riches of the world; bargaining with restaurant chefs and housewives examining the daily supply of fish, crustaceans, and bivalves; delivery men pushing handcarts - is the best show in town even if you have nothing to buy. 
On the morning we went, they were selling 30 artichokes for € 10, and a vendor was even peeling them. He was doing a kind of fascinating tribal dance as he was cutting off the leaves and throwing the tender hearts in a bucket full of lemony water.
Later that night at a nearby restaurant (Trattoria La Madonna), I ordered a plateful of meaty artichoke hearts, every bite of which was sheer delight.

Mountain Horn Players in Lavaux, Switzerland

What a sight! What a racket! Several dozens of Swiss horn players gave a concert on the occasion of Lavaux Wine Country being registered as a UNESCO World Heritage