Sunday, February 13, 2022

Brunello Chianti Tre Bicchieri New York





As usual at this time of the year, I'm looking forward to the biggest, most important Italian Wine Tastings of the year. Those being; # 1, The Tre Bicchieri , # 2 The Brunello Tasting, and # 3, yet no less important, The Chianti Tasting on Monday, February 28th ... I love all these tastings, and being one of New York's Top Italian Wine Guys for some 20 plas years now, these are my favorite Italian Wine Events of the year. That is unless, if someone like my old pal Jacopo Biondi Sante of Biondi Sante Brunello fame, happens to be hosting an amazing private Wine Dinner of his great wines, which include his famed Brunello, Moscadello, and Super Tuscan and other IGT wines made by his family wine estates Tenute Greppo (not longer owned by the family, and Castello Montepo (still owned by Jacapo Biondi Santi), and the dinner is only for 16 lucky people. I was one of the Lucky few of several Million people living in New York, when I was invited by Jacapo and Martin Scott Wines (former Improter Distributer) to be among the chosen few at this prestigous Wine Dinner, in a Private Room at Spark's Steakhouse in New York (1998), as I was one of the owner (Chef / Wine Director) of one of the Hottest New York Italian Restuarants of the time, Bar Cichetti. To make it short and sweet, we hadan amazing dinner, starting with an assortment of Italian Antipasti, like; Baked Clams, Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Peppers, Prosciutto and other Italian delicasies. We followed that with a famous Spark's Dry Aged New York Cut Sirloin Steak each, followed by a Cheese Course, then an assortment of wonderful desserts with Jacapo's supreme Moscadello di Montalcino. 

Naturally we drank 3 different vinatges of Biondi Sante Brunello, as well as two of the companies fine Super Tuscan wines in Sassoaloro and Schicdione wines. The evening was absolutely wonderful, as you can see my passion reminiscing these 24 years gone by.


Well, sorry, I got off of the subject a minute (2022 Italian Wine Eventes NYC). So, as I've said, these are the most important Italian Wine Events of the year (in New York), unless of course you are at an event such as I've just described. If not, then it's The Brunello Tasting, Tre Bicchieri, and The Chianti Tasting, and of these 3, Tre Bicchieri is the most improtant, as it is not just Brunello or Chianti, or any single wine or wine region, but all of the best wines of Italy, in every wine region, all over Italy, from: Peidmonte with their great Barolo and Barbaresco wines, to Montalcino and Brunello, to Chainti Classic and Chianti and numerous Super Tuscan Wines of the region, to Friuli and all the gerat white Italian wines of the North-East of Italy, and all over the land. And besides all the great wine, my favorite thing about this tasting, is that I get to see my Italian friends there, along with all my New York friends in the wine business in New York, or simply lovers of fine Italian Wines, Tre Bicchieri is awesome. 


Roberto Fiore with his Dad

The Famed Winemaker VITTORIO FIORE

With Thier Famed Sper Tuscan Il CARBIONIONNE

Tre Bicchieri "can't Remember which Year"




OK, that's Tre Bicchieri, now on to the New York Brunello Tasting 2022. As always I look forward to drinking the newly released Brunello di Maontacino, Reserve Brunelli, Moscadello di Maontalcino, and a few Super Tuscan offerings brought by the Brunello producers of Montalcino.

There is without question one Brunello producer who makes my favorite Brunello of all, and that's Fattoria Barbi and their Brunello Normale and Brunello Reserva, with its amazing Red Label that I love so much. Barbi is one of Montalcino's oldest producers, among the First 30, they make amaing Brunello and other wines, and they have one of the most Gorgeous Wine Cellars in the wole of Italy. Bar none.

My second favorite Brunello comes form my pal  Conti Franceso Maruni Cinzano, who along with his family own the great wine estate Col d' Orcia in Montalcino, producing some of, easily the World's Best Brunello. Francesco, always has wonderful older vintages of his wonderful Brunello for me to taste, and it is always a very special treat when I do, especially when he taste me on his most amazing Brunello Reserva Poggio al Vento. This particular time, Francesco tasted me 2004 vintage of the Col d' Orcia Brunello "Poggio al Vento" Reserva 2004.


Tasting some of The Counts WonderfuL Brunello

This was back in 2014 ... Week of NY BRUNELLO TATSTING


Other BRUNELLO Producers I LOVE, are : Altesino, Poggio Antical,
Livio Sassetti, and  IL Poggione.


Let me say it, right up front, "I Love Chianti" ! I first started going to the beautiful area known as Chianti Classico, way back in 1997. I fell in love with the area immediately, driving around, visiting with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi in Panzano, after an amazing visit to Villa Calcinaia in Greve with the two noble Conti Capponi, the brothers Nicola an Sebastiano Capponi, whose Noble Florentine Family has owned a Pallazzo in Florence, and the wine estate Villa Calciania for over 400 years now. That day we met with the two Conti, who showed us around their family estate, into the cellars and vineyards, and culminating in an amazing private lunch with the two Florentine Counts (Conti). Needless to say, it was more than wonderful. We drank Villa Calcinaia Chianti of course. We at antipasti, pasta, Roast Chicken with potatoes, and dessert with the tasty Vin Santo from Villa Calcinaia, one of the most memorabel meals ever.


The Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Tour and Top Italian Wines Roadshow are the World’s Premier Italian Wine showcases. We’re pleased to announce the tour’s return to the U.S. Join us once again for the ultimate, industry-only tasting of Italy’s highest-rated wines! The Tre Bicchieri events feature top Italian wineries pouring wines awarded the coveted “Tre Bicchieri” (“three glass”) designation, exclusively for members of the wine trade; additional wines will also be shown, including some of the year’s “top value” wines from Italy.

Come taste Italy’s “best of the best”, meet the winery representatives, and celebrate the release of the newest edition of Gambero Rosso’s legendary wine guide, the Vini d’Italia. Featuring more than just reviews of Italy’s finest wines, Vini d’Italia covers the brilliant, passionate individuals who devote their lives to winemaking. Today, more than 70 expert tasters comprise the team that blind-tastes 45,000+ wines annually. Of these many thousands of wines, fewer than 1% achieve the Tre Bicchieri designation. Gambero Rosso will visit four U.S. cities in 2022, introducing remarkable Italian winemakers and hundreds of Tre Bicchieri-awarded wines to the U.S. wine trade.



My Own Personal Favorite


Fattoria Barbi Brunello di Montalcino

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

A Trip to CHIANTI Tuscany



The SR 222 (Strada Regionale 222 is the official name of the Chiantigiana Wine Road) connects all the main towns of ChiantiGreve in ChiantiMontefiorallePanzano in ChiantiCastellina in ChiantiRadda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti. It cuts through scenic hillsolive groves and vineyards and leads you through little medieval villages with stunning churches and castles. The Chianti region is first and foremost famous for its wine and wineries. On your explorations down the Chiantigiana make sure to include a stop for some wine tasting.


Dario Cecchini

An itinerary in the heart of Chianti

The Chiantigiana is 74.9 km long and connects Florence to Siena. Part of the magic of a road trip in Chiantishire is testing out little roads on a whim and ending up in some unexpected place. You can’t really go wrong, there is always something beautiful to see and tasty to eat around the bend.


Greve in Chianti is 39 km away from Florence and the main town in the Florentine part of Chianti. Every September, it hosts the biggest wine fair in the area called La Rassegna del Chianti Classico. The main square is Piazza Matteotti, where the Saturday morning market is held. If you observe the square carefully, you will notice that all the porticoes are different sizes and sometimes even materials. The merchants of the city paid for their construction out of their own pocket which explains the lack of homogeneity. The statue in the center of the piazza commemorates Giovanni da Verrazzano, one of the first Europeans to explore North America. The explorer is considered a Greve inhabitant even though the Verrazzano castle is out of the town proper.


Get off the SR222 for a small detour to Montefioralle. This little medieval hamlet is only 5 minutes away from Greve in Chianti and well worth a visit. The road up the hill has a few switchbacks and is quite narrow, so drive slowly and enjoy the views, Montefioralle, with its stone houses and fortified walls, looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was founded in the 12th century. The town was built around the castle and expanded elliptically around it. Most of Montefioralle’s fortifications are still standing.

A spot in Panzano

Food and wine lovers should include a stop in Panzano in Chianti. Back on the Chiantigiana, take a right turn onto Via della Conca d’Oro and drive up to other little medieval town. The Panzano castle is quite a sight to behold with its beautiful stone towers and loggia terrace. Sadly, the castle can’t be visited because it has been transformed into private residences.

The real treasure of Panzano is the Conca d’Oro, or the shell shaped valley that surrounds the town. Panzano is a great place to enjoy breathtaking views of the Tuscan landscape with its forest, olive groves and vineyards. Wine is at the center of the Vino al Vino festival held in mid September. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample the local Chianti wine production.


Castellina was a crucial Florentine military outpost in the war between Siena and Florence (1552-1559). The fact that Castellina is much closer to Siena, than it is to the region’s capital, gives an idea of the expansion of Florence at the time. If you want to immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere, head to Via delle Volte. This arched stone passage follows the eastern outer city walls. You can peek out of the arrow slits and admire the panorama of the Chianti countryside. Via delle Volte is one of the few remainders of the fortified wall perimeter. Most of it was destroyed during various battles throughout history.

Castellina is also famous for a big Etruscan tomb called Montecalvario. The knoll hosts four burial chambers. The monument is open to the public and free of charge. In order to see in the dark press the light switch at the entrance. Beware, the light is on a timer and you could end up in the dark when you least expect it! The ground can also get quite muddy after heavy rains. 


From Castellina in Chianti, backtrack on the Chiantigiana until you get to the turnoff for the SR 429 (Strada Regionale 429). You will reach Radda in about 15 minutes. This charming town on a hill was founded by the Etruscans. It then served as the capital of the Lega del Chianti, a military alliance affiliated to Florence during the Florence-Siena wars. Once the conflict ended, the noble families and land owners of Radda focused their energies on the production of wine. Radda has been actively producing this beloved beverage for the last 5 centuries!

If you want to discover the Chianti countryside differently, come to Radda in March for the Chianti Ultra Race. Radda organises three races of different lengths (15k, 42k, 73k) on trails around the vineyards of the area. 


Continue on the SR 429. At the crossroads take a right turn onto SP 2 (Strada Provinciale 2 di Molilungo). The drive is only 15 minutes long. Gaiole in Chianti, helped by its strategic position near many important roads, was a bustling market town in the Renaissance. The town, just like Radda, was also part of the Lega del Chianti. Unlike most of the other towns in Chiantishire, Gaiole isn’t fortified. But don’t be disappointed, there are at least four incredible castles to visit nearby: castello di Lucignanocastello di Meletocastello di Ama and castello di Brolio. This last one, owned by the Ricasoli family, has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that is has become a compendium of different architectural styles. In 1835, the baron Bettino Ricasoli had his medieval castle transformed in the neo-gothic style very much in vogue in England at the time. The very same baron was instrumental in creating the recipe for the Chianti wine we enjoy today. The garden and a small museum are the only places that can be visited for the entrance fee of €5 and €8 respectively. Both include a wine tasting.

The Chiantigiana is the best way to enjoy the Chianti area at a slow pace and without the typical flocks of tourists. The charming little towns that dot the hilly landscape are perfect for short stops, a bite of delicious food and a glass of red.







Relais Fattoria Valle is a wonderful place to stay.  The property is set just outside the town of Panzano in Chianti, in the hills of the Chianti wine district. Rooms are unique, and the swimming pool has panoramic views across the valley. 

At Fattoria Valle you can take part in cookery courses. The restaurant offers Tuscan dishes and local wines, which in summer are served out on the terrace. Each room is individually designed with period furnishings and original paintings, and some offers views of the valley. All rooms have private bathrooms. Free WiFi is available throughout. 

The beautiful old house has wonderful common rooms on the first floor.  There is a sitting room, a Billiard Room, and a lovely Bar Room where you can drink the Chianti mad on the property, or bootles of Chianti, Brunello and other wines from the local area, all at very reasonable price.
Florence is a 45-minute drive away.



I first stayed at Fattoria Valle in April of 2001, after coming down from Verona, 
Lake Garda and the Italian Wine Exposition of Vinitaly, held for 5 days each year in the fair city of Verona, And as usual, we always do a day around Lake Garda and the wine region of Valpolicella Classico where they make: Bardolino, Valpolicella, Recioto, and Amarone wines. I usually visit a couple of my friends like Marilisa Allegrini or Nadia Zenato at there Wine Estates around Garda.

Weel, back to Fattoria and the town of Panzano in Chianti. My pal Jimmy "S" was with me on this wine trip. He was a last minute sub, after my cousin Joe had to back out of this trip. 

So we made it down to Chianti Classico and we were looking for a nice place to stay. This was my second trip to the area, but the first time I was staying there. My first trip to the area was in 1997 when I went with a couple business associates. We were staying in Florence at the Grande Hotel and we had plans to visit two Chianti properties in the area. We were invited to lunch with the Conti Caponi, two brothers who are Italian Counts of the Noble Florentine Family of Caponi. Their estate is Villa Calcinaia in Greve. The Caponi's have a Palazzo 50 feet from the Ponte Vecchio on the Arno in Florence, Italy. We had to go to the Palazzo to meet the Couint Nicola Caponi, and then drive down to Villa Calcinaia in Greve where we would tour the cellars and vineyards of the estate before having lunch with the two brothers (Conti Capponi) in the private dining room of the castle. We met Nicola's brother Sebastiano and chit-chatted a couple minutes inside the kitchen (with wood burning stove). Then Nicola took us on a tour of the cellars, first showing us the room where the Olive Oil was in storage in large Terra Cotta vats. He then showed us the 300 year old mother. "What?" The mother in question is the vinegar starter that you try to keep alive, and it must be alive, in order to do its magic and turn wine into vinegar. In this case, the very best Chianti Wine Vinegar Calcinaia.

Nicola delighted in telling us about the family's 300 Year Old Mother. It was quite a sight, not to mention the wonderful experience I think about to this day (2022).  Then Nicola brought us into the room where Trebbiano grapes were hanging to dry, and would soon be vinified to make the estate's renowned Vin Santo Italian Dessert Wine. We loved it.

Nicola then took us into the main cellar where the large Slovenian Wine Casks were filled with aging Sangiovese that was turning into the great Chianti wine. Nikola took some barrel samples of the aging Chinati for us to try. "Wow, I was in 7th Heaven. Drinking Chianti Barrel samples in the Cellars of Villa Calcinaia in Greve, with the Count Nikola Capponi doing the honors for us. It doesn't get any better than that. Seriously." It might sound cliche, but it was oh so 100% True. A day I'll never forget. But the day was not over. After spending some time in the cellar, drinking the fresh Chianti wine, we then went outside to look over the vineyards a bit. It was April and the vines of Sangiovese were just starting to bud, but it was all so wonderful. We then went back into the castle for lunch.

Wow, agian, I couldn't beleive my great fortune. To be dining in the esteemed estate of Villa Calcinaia, the noble Florentine Family of Capponi's very own wine estate in Greve in Chianti with the two young Counts. This was amazing.

After seeing the garden and walking through the vines of  Sangiovese  we joined up  with 
Niccolo’s brother Conti Sebastiano Capponi in a beautiful little dining room for our 
incredible lunch to come. 

The dining room was decorated in the perfect combination of country
elegance of which was unchanged for some 500 years.
We started this wonderful meal with an antipasto misto  of  Crostini 
Toscano,  Prosciutto,  and  roast peppers. The antipasto was followed by
a simple but tasty  Rigatoni Pomodoro.

We were served the Veal that we had observed being roasted by the
cook previously,  along with some sautéed  escarole from the garden.

We  then  followed  the Veal with some Pecorino Toscano while enjoying
the Capponi’s great Chianti throughout the meal.

 For desert we ate succulent Oranges while sipping on  the  extraordinary 
Calcinaia Vin Santo which to me is the best expression of  this  famous
Tuscan dessert  wine that I have ever tasted, ever better than the superb
Avognesi Vin Santo  1990  which received the highest score possible
for  any wine,  a  100 from the Wine Spectator. The Vin Santo from
Villa Calcinaia is  perfectly balanced  with  the sweetness of ripe Pears
and Apricots,  with hints of  Wild Flowers and Walnuts and at the finish,
utterly Perfecto!

   This meal was one of the most memorable of my life,  dining  with 
the Capponi’s  in a lovely  dining room in the Castel  which dates back
to theRenaissance,  at the Villa Calcinaia in  the heart Chianti Classico,
drinking their fabulous wine with our meal, it  was an  experience that 
not many  people ever get the chance to do, simply extraordinary.

Dining with The CONIT CAPPONI

Villa Calcinaia

Greve, Italy


Villa Calcinaia

Greve in Chianti

On the third day in Panzano we went to visit the stunning  wine estate
of  Vignamaggio. This estate has  quite a history  behind it. La Gioconda
(Mona Lisa) was born at this  stately  villa, and the painting  is  believed
to been painted by DaVinci on the grounds of Vignamaggio.
    The estate  is  absolutely beautiful. If you look at the background 
of the painting Mona Lisa you will get  an idea of the beauty of the
estate and the panoramas  you  see from  its various vantage points,
they are spectacular.





Relais Fattoriaa Valle



With Conti Sebastiano Capponi at a Chianti Tasting

New York   2008

Conti Sebastiano Capponi, Me, ??? and my Cousin Joe Macari

Of Macari Vineyards, Mattituk, New York