Fine Wine’s Franciacorta tasting notes

Above: my POV when I tasted recently with Franco at Ca’ del Bosco in Franciacorta.

Tom Stevenson believes that Italy’s grandest sparkling wines are getting better and better,” write the editors of Fine Wine, “a conviction strengthened by a recent tasting shared with Margaret Rand and Franco Ziliani.” My friend and partner in VinoWire, Franco Ziliani joined two of Britain’s top wine writers earlier this year to taste through a wide range of Franciacorta producers.

The editors of the magazine were kind enough to share a PDF of this article, which includes tasting notes from their remarkable tasting. Click here to view.

Feeling fat and stinky (and that’s a good thing)

Above: fat and stinky. I can’t say where it came from or who shared it with me (since it’s illegal in this country), but this Ami du Chambertin was fantastic yesterday evening at my buddy’s place. This week I’m feeling just like that cheese.

When I first moved to NYC and got a job as a magazine editor, one of the graphics guys was a Russian. Slava was his name, very talented dude and a good friend. Every time he’d see me laugh or smile, he’d say, “Jeremy, suck a lime.” In other words, stop smiling because unless you don’t something bad will surely happen.

Well, I’m throwing caution to the wind because it’s been a good week and I’m feeling fat and stinky like that cheese.

Found out yesterday that Nous Non Plus’ Fille Atomique (from …Nous Non Plus self-titled) will be featured on the show Gossip Girl on Monday (8 p.m. Pacific, check your local listings).

Our new album, Ménagerie, is being printed as I write this and will be out in January.

This week I’m finishing the final edits on my behemoth translation of a Guide to Italian Cinema for Princeton U. Press. I’ve been working on this book for a few years now and it’s great to see it come to fruition.

And this weekend I’m headed to Austin, Texas to hang out, relax, and listen to some good music during Austin City Limits. Maybe I’ll even get to dance with a pretty girl… I can just hear Slava saying it, suck a lime…

In other news…

I really like this post today by McDuff: one of the things I like about his blog is the way he balances the human aspect of our business with great tasting notes and informed background. I was just talking to some colleagues about Vajra last night and lo and behold, David posted on the winery today.

Italian Wine Guy is back from Italy and shared with me this updated list of the now 41 Italian DOCGs (a few new ones were added this summer). Alfonso, looking forward to seeing you this weekend in Austin, man!

The virtual sommelier strikes again: Castell’in Villa ’82

Above: 1982 Castell’in Villa at Dell’Anima in Manhattan.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them: I’m just “keeping the world safe for Italian wine.” A number of my friends have suggested that I use the line as a tagline for Do Bianchi and maybe one day I will.

In the meantime, I recently received an email from John, who lives in San Diego but was headed to Dell’Anima in Manhattan for a special dinner with his wife:

    I recall reading something about a friend of yours emailing a picture of the wine list at a place in San Francisco, and you gave some sage advice. I hope I’m not being presumptuous, but I was wondering if you could take a look at a list and see if anything jumps out at you. We’re back in NYC for one night this Friday (Sept. 19), and are eating at Dell’Anima.

I took a quick look at owner Joe Campanale’s excellent list and there were a number of great options, at different price points. But the wine that really spoke to me, at a palatable price point, was the 1982 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico.

Today, John writes:

    We had a great dinner at Dell’Anima Friday night. I’ll save the complete report for when we meet in person, but Joe came up to greet us … and then we decided on the Castell’in Villa ’82, which he poured a bit of into our glasses and then decanted. An Amazing Wine Experience! … It evolved beautifully for the whole hour it took to drink.

    I finished The Accidental Conoisseur on the flight back, and it was fun to see Rosenthal’s quotation on p. 210: “Are there any great Chiantis anymore? There’s Castell’in Villa, okay – but practically nothing else.”

That’s what we do over here at Do Bianchi… just keeping the world safe for Italian wine, one wine lover at a time.

Ziliani vs. Rivella: heavyweight title bout live from Siena, Friday October 3

Above: Franco Ziliani is one of Italy’s most revered and controversial wine writers and his writings have always been an inspiration to me — for their verve, erudition, and the hard-hitting truths he brings to the tasting table (photo by Ben Shapiro).

No, this bout won’t be broadcast from the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. But it will be streamed via internet from the Aula Magna or Great Hall of the University of Siena on Friday, October 3, 3 p.m. local time: enologist and ex-director of Banfi Ezio Rivella (an outspoken proponent for a change in appellation regulations that would allow for grapes other than Sangiovese to be used in Brunello di Montalcino) and wine writer Franco Ziliani (a steadfast traditionalist and defender of Brunello made from 100% Sangiovese) will face off in an unprecedented debate on the future of Brunello. Other panelists include Teobaldo Cappellano (Barolo producer and founder of Vini Veri) and noted Italian enologist Vittorio Fiore. (The debate will be “streamed” live at and

Above: no, that’s not the rhino sported by the label of spoofulated Barbaresco. It’s a gravity defying ungulate that hovers above Ca’ del Bosco’s “gravity flow,” whereby the newly harvested grapes travel only by virtue of gravity as they are sorted, destemmed, and transformed into wine. Not only is Ca’ del Bosco a wonder of modern technology, it is also a objet d’art: works of art — ranging from Arnaldo Pomodoro to Igor Mitoraj to Helmut Newton — adorn the grounds and winemaking facility.

During my recent trip to Italy, I had a chance to taste with Franco in one of his favorite appellations, Franciacorta. Ben Shapiro, Giovanni Arcari (a Franciacorta winemaker and consultant), Franco, and I toured and tasted at the amazing technicolor dreamcoat that is the Ca’ del Bosco winery before we retired to dinner and confabulated late into the evening, lingering over Giovanni’s excellent Camossi Franciacorta rosé (would someone please import this wine to the U.S., Strappo?).

Above: a detail of one of the riddling racks in the Ca’ del Bosco cellar. Note the sediment in the neck of the bottle.

The highlight, however, was a stunning 1979 Ca’ del Bosco, disgorged à la volée by one of the winery’s technicians in the cellar. Comparing the ’79 to the recent vintages, it is clear that Ca’ del Bosco’s style has remained unchanged since its early years and these superb wines stand apart for their character, personality and terroir expression. Excuse the pun, but that wine was fly! (Brooklynguy would have loved its oxidized nose and intense hazelnut flavors.)

Above: one of the extraordinary Mitoraj sculptures on the grounds of the winery. Ca’ del Bosco does offer guided tours and tastings by appointment. I highly recommend it: the state-of-the-art winemaking facility is among the most impressive I’ve ever seen, much of the technology developed and patented by the winery itself.

Tornando a bomba, as they say in Italian, getting back to matters at hand… I’ll be publishing a report of next Friday’s Ziliani vs. Rivella face-off. Rivella has long championed changes in appellation regulations (in Piedmont and Tuscany) that would allow for liberal blending of international grape varieties. I regret that the current political climate in Italy appears outwardly amenable to such changes. I don’t believe that Franco and Teobaldo are the “last of the Mohicans.” But I do believe this unprecedented public forum represents a defining moment in what has become a national debate in Italy.

Don’t touch that dial…

My dinner with the Weinsteins

BrunelloWire: light rain today and so no picking.

Strappo reports from Montepulciano: “Still a way from harvest in Montepulciano. But they are about 600 m above sea level here.”

Above: no, that’s not the Weinsteins… that’s Melanie and Noah. Noah and I go way back: we even went to Hebrew School together! Today, he’s a leading German scholar and she a writer of non-fiction, critic, and poet.

No, I didn’t really have dinner with the Weinsteins. But that was the joke the other night when my good friends Melanie Rehak and Noah Isenberg (above) took me to Weinstein, a wonderful traditional German wine bar just off the Helmholtzplatz in their neighborhood, the Prenzlauer Berg, in Berlin (note the über-hip extension “.eu” in the Weintstein URL).

Riesling is a lacuna in my enological formation and so I was in pig heaven, so to speak, between a great flight of Rieslings poured by excellent sommelier Marc Metzdorf and my Wiener Teller (“Viennese platter,” including delicious cured suckling pig among other delicatessen) and Königsberger Klöße (pork and veal — if I’m not mistaken — dumplings).

The star of the evening was the 1995 Dr. Loosen Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese, which Marc pours by the glass. Being the neophyte Riesling-lover that I am, I put myself in Marc’s hands and I was really impressed by the care and devotion he and his colleague, Claudia, showed for these wines. Weinstein’s list is impressive and stretches back to the 1970s, with roughly 250 lots. Good stuff…

On the plane back to LAX from Berlin the next day, I read Noah’s new tome on the film noir classic Detour. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.


Earlier in the day, Melanie and I paid a visit to the “legendary” food department at KaDeWe, where German cuisine is featured alongside cuisine from all over the world. Melanie’s finishing edits on a book about her experience working in farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn. I can’t reveal the name but I’m looking forward to its release sometime next year. Here are some pics from KaDeWe…

I love anything marzipan. The more kitsch, the better.

Cured heaven…

Please don’t feed the eels…

The “American” section was really a joke… an irony in the context of the fantastic traditional German, French, Italian, and Japanese counters. But Melanie and I had fun perusing the candy canes, Pop Tarts and Swiss Miss.

My martini lunch and news from Italy

Above: chilled beet soup and martinis for lunch yesterday at Lucques in West Hollywood.

My editor at Princeton University Press will kill me: I was supposed to be working on my final edits of my translation of a Guide to the History of Italian Cinema yesterday but I played hooky and met the producer of a Swiss (yes, Swiss) vodka, Xellent, for lunch at the fashionable Lucques in West Hollywood. Maybe she’ll forgive me: after all, the 3-martini lunch used to be a given in the world of east coast publishing!

In other news…

The Siena Farmers Union is meeting tomorrow to discuss potential changes in the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino appellations. Click here for the story.

Good weather holds in Montalcino for harvest today.

And far-flung Do Bianchi correspondent Italian Wine Guy reports from San Benedetto del Tronto in the Marches:

Harvesting trebbiano today—the much maligned ugni blanc. This AM the fishing boats came in from the sea. Lovely stuff on the adriatic.

Word from the vineyard: Sangiovese harvest has begun in Montalcino

My friends in Montalcino just let me know that they have begun harvesting the 2008 Sangiovese Grosso. Alessandro’s been posting nearly every day over at Montalcino Report and he also posted his winery’s government-issued certification letters (translated into English but for the bureaucratically minded only). Ale, I’m really digging the Montalcino weather widget!


Anteprima da la Terza (a first look at third)

This just in from the “life could be worse” department…

Above: Executive chef Gino Angelini and chef de cuisine Gianpiero Ceppaglia at La Terza on Third in West Hollywood.

David Schachter and I met up last night at La Terza, Gino Angelini’s restaurant on Third (hence the name) where Gino and his chef de cuisine Gianpiero Ceppaglia were debuting their new fall menu. We were also joined by LA chef-about-town Walter Manzke and wine industry veteran Enrico Nicoletta: needless to say, some great bottles were opened as we sampled the new repertoire.

Don’t try this at home. We paired David’s 2001 Raveneau Montée de Tonnerre with the spaghetti with lobster. Gino’s seafood is always fantastic, the long noodles were perfectly al dente, and the Raveneau was simply singing…. a great pairing…

Architectonic food has always fascinated me and the theme has pervaded my research in Italian Renaissance cuisine (see my translation of Maestro Martino): I loved this take on baked macaroni, “Vesuvius.”

Gianpiero and Gino matched this beautiful scallop with porcini mushrooms, an unusual pairing that worked swimmingly well. The crostino took it over the top.

David and I got into a fist fight as to whether or not fregola can be called Israeli couscous. I guess it’s the self-loathing Jews in us. The seafood medley with fregola was delicious nonetheless and paired well with a “simple red,” Mick Hucknall’s Etna Nerello Mascalese Il Cantante 2001. I liked the wine despite the dumb name.

Quail over polenta was tender and moist. Definitely a standout… Does it show that I’m a fan? Life could be worse…

Gambero Rosso abruptly fires respected director Stefano Bonilli

I am sorry to report that one of Italy’s most respected and beloved food and wine writers, Stefano Bonilli, has been abruptly fired by the Gambero Rosso. Franco and I have reported the story at VinoWire (click here).

The circumstances of his being let go are dubious and the Italian food and wine blogosphere is up in arms. Even the usually smug Kelablu is quaking in his boots. But Nerina seems unfazed.

Obladi Oblada: Jayne and Jon got married

Above: on Saturday, I officiated at Jayne and Jon’s wedding in Presidio Park overlooking San Diego.

The task was daunting: as I sat down and finally put pen to paper after months of procrastinating, the thought of writing a wedding ceremony and wedding vows seemed insurmountable.

As a musician, I’ve played more weddings that I care to remember and I’m glad not to be in that business anymore. But playing someone’s first dance or getting a crowd to rock out on the dance floor — that’s easy. Writing a ceremony and vows for two of my best friends in the world, whom I care about deeply — that’s a tall order. But once I finally started writing, it all came together. Jayne’s family is from Liverpool and they’re all huge Beatles fans. So the only request was that somehow a Beatles’ lyric be incorporated. If you care to read my talk and the vows, click here.

The ceremony was lovely, if I do say so myself: just enough tears and not too much laughter. I was very flattered that Jayne and Jon had asked me to officiate and how could one say no to such a request from such dear friends. But what do I know about what makes a great marriage? I’m certainly no shining example of a lifetime of bliss.

When my old friend Mike Andrews and I spoke at the party, I shared my doubts with him. “Jeremy, you were the perfect person to do this,” he said. “Because you’ve never stopped believing in love.”

Above: the happy couple. That’s Bart Davenport in the corner playing guitar. Man, that dude can sing…

I believe in love, Alfie.



The reception was held at the restaurant where among other great bottles, we opened:

1999 Produttori del Barbaresco Rabajà in magnum
2000 Château Certan in magnum
1976 Lòpez de Heredia Viña Bosconia

And, of course, the Bollinger Special Cuvée and the 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco (classico) flowed into the night and flowed over to the after party at Tio Leos. Music industry veteran Jon had put together what was the most smoking wedding band (short of Stevie Wonder playing your wedding), led by the inimitable Bart Davenport. Jon sat in on Gill Scott Heron’s “Lady Day and John Coltrane” among other numbers and I backed Jayne’s dad, Frank Battle, on “Ring of Fire.”