The Casa D’Ambra vineyard and production complex sits in a natural amphitheatre overlooking the bay of Citara in Forio d’Ischia.
Renowned as one of the foremost wine producers in Ischia, with awards and DOC ratings for their bottles, Casa D’Ambra is one of the first names on the lips when it comes to the history and art of wine production in Ischia.
Ischia Review were lucky enough to be invited along to Casa D’Ambra to witness at first-hand, exactly what a visitor to their cantina and vineyards can expect. As we were welcomed by the sisters, Marina and Sara D’Ambra, the family traditions of Casa D’Ambra are immediately apparent. It was back in 1888 that the sisters’ great grandfather, Francesco D’Ambra, first started producing wine in Ischia and the business has stayed in the family ever since, with generation after generation taking over the reins of the business when it was passed down to them.
The most recent recipient of the baton was Mario D’Ambra who took control of operations in 2000 and has been carefully nurturing the business through its development into a prolific producer of high-quality wines in the modern era.
It is immediately obvious that Mario D’Ambra carries the passion started by his great grandfather, when hearing his daughters Marina and Sara enthuse about the wines and their production. The young sisters are keen students of wine and the wine industry with their depth of knowledge and ability to answer any questions fired at them very impressive.
Our tour of Casa D’Ambra began in the museum where Marina and Sara explained the early days of Casa D’Ambra with the aid of some fascinating exhibits. Situated on the first floor of the main building of the complex, the museum charts the history of the family business, right back to its roots in 1888. Monica explains how her great great grandfather,”Don Ciccio” (Francesco D’Ambra), cleverly manipulated the local laws to ensure he became the leading of exporter of wine from Ischia to the mainland in Naples.
The photographic montage on the museum’s walls is a fascinating passage through time, not only of Ischia during its pre-tourism days, but also of the wine-making industry in general. Photos of ships being loaded with barrels of wine in Ischia Porto show the island in a very different light to how it is today and it’s interesting to think that the place where you now arrive on your ferry was once used mainly used for trade with the mainland.
The great thing about the museum is that it shows some of the tools that were first used to create the Casa D’Ambra wine. The wide variety of implements serve to emphasise the care and precision with which the wine has been produced over the years. The exhibits also show how wine production has slowly evolved over the years with items shown from every period of the company’s existence.
Possibly the most eye-catching of the exhibits on display, is the papier-mache mini recreation of Ischia’s streets and houses from the days when the company was born in 1888. The attention to detail of these scenes is incredible and echoes those found in the streets of Naples where it is considered an art-form. The “mini Ischia” contains many sights that still exist in Ischia today such as the unmistakable Chiesa del Soccorso in Forio.
After spending time in the museum, the tour then moves on to the larger building which houses the machinery and equipment used to facilitate the production of the wines, such as the huge vats and barrels in which the wines are stored at various stages. It is within this building that you can really understand what a sophisticated operation exists at Casa D’Ambra as you follow the journey from grape to bottle. From the vinification in stainless steel tanks, red wine ageing in wooden barrels, bottling, packaging and then distribution, it’s fascinating to witness at first hand the complex process that has to occur in order to create these high-quality wines.
Casa D’Ambra sources grapes from around 150 carefully selected vineyards around Ischia and with their clever machinery they are able to produce a staggering number of bottles per year. For example, the bottling machines which you can watch in operation as part of the tour, bottles, labels and seals 3,000 bottles per hour, helping the company to produce around half a million bottles annually. The staff are all on hand to answer questions or to show you in more detail how they go about their various tasks, from the machine-operators through to the packaging and distribution team.
One of the most memorable parts of our day at Casa D’Ambra was the trip to the family’s Frassitelli vineyards, high up on the slopes of Mount Epomeo. As the car winds its way up around the twisting roads in Serrara Fontana, the scenery outside becomes more dramatic and breathtaking at every turn. However, despite witnessing the gradual change in scenery during the 15 minute journey, nothing quite prepares you for the awe-inspiring vista that you are presented with on arrival at the Frassitelli vineyard. Situated at around 800 metres above sea-level, the vineyard is one of the highest peaks in Ischia and it is due to this fact that the views are difficult to match anywhere on the island. The panoramic views of the north-western part of the island take in Forio, The Bay of Citara and Sant’Angelo, but also the islands that neighbour Ischia such as Ventotene, Procida and Capri.
Of course, this area was not chosen for its views but for the impact that the high altitude has on the wine production. The height, type of soil and particularly the tufa stone that can be found around Ischia and Mount Epomeo in particular, combine to create the perfect growing conditions for the D’Ambra wines. The peace and tranquility is palpable at the Frassitelli vineyard but the area can also be used to stage parties or romantic meals. Next to the vineyard and carved out of stone, sits a small house with a kitchen and lounge which is used to create local specialities such as coniglio Ischitano which can be enjoyed along with carefully selected wines.
The meals are served in an outdoor seating area where groups are entertained with guitar music, food and great conversation while enjoying the range of wines that the D’Ambra sisters carefully select for you to perfectly complement your chosen meal. Just a short walk along from the main seating area, the most romantic location imaginable awaits couples who have chosen the “Wine in Love” tour. As the sun sets over Ischia, the couple can enjoy the area to themselves with an intimate table and chairs made of the tufa stone, carved out to create a promontory from which to enjoy the spectacular views. A personalised waiter brings out the home-cooked Ischian specialities as you are left to dine alone in peace while enjoying the Casa D’Ambra wines.
The “Wine in Love” experience has to be booked in advance, with prices on application, but part of the regular visit to Casa D’Ambra incorporates the best part of all, the wine-tasting! The tastings take place in the same building as the museum, in a room filled with beautiful antique furniture. Sara and Monica serve the wines and explain how best to enjoy them with different foods or at different stages of a meal. The antique room is also a reminder to the D’Ambra heritage as photographs of famous visitors from years gone by can be seen in various volumes that you are allowed to peruse. Whilst trying the different wines you are given specially chosen cheese or salami which is designed to perfectly complement the various bottles.
Monday, September 20, 2021
The Casa D’Ambra vineyard and production complex sits in a natural amphitheatre overlooking the bay of Citara in Forio d’Ischia.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts (L)
The POPE of GREENWICH VILLAGE
How to watch a movie? You go to the cinema or pop something on at home, no? Yes that one way. You can watch a movie and maybe it's good and maybe it's not. You got to a movie theater? Well not so much today, with Netflix, Cable TV, streaming, or picking out a Video (yes some still have them), or DVD from your home collection. Nowadays there are many ways to see a movie. There's the old fashion way of going to the cinema, paying money and seeing the latest movie of your choice. That was fun, and it was an event, a night out, and much more affordable than today. "Isn't everything?" Well yeah, most things are a lot more expensive than they were in years past, and somethings not. Candy bars for example are about 20 times more than they were when I was a kid. WHen I first started buying candy bars (Hershey Bar etc.) they were only 5 Cents. And guess what? They were only 5 Cents when my father was a boy, 30 years before. In 30 years, the price of a candy bar (all candy) hadn't gone up at all. When I first started buying Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey Bars, Almond Joys and such, they where just 5 cents, a Nickel a piece. Then they started going up, a nickel at a time, until they got to the point they are now, between 1 Dollar and a Buck 25 depending on where you buy one. That's as muc as 25 times increase since I was a boy. The average workers weekly income has gone up only 2 1/2 to 3 times since then, yet a Hershey Bar has gone up 20 times or more. A home has gone up close to 20 times as well, yet the price of long distance phone calls have decreased 20 times. What's a person to do. The price of a movie ticket? Yes it's gone up about 25 times since I started paying for my own movie ticket 50 years gone buy at the Rivoli Theater in Rutherford, New Jersey when it was just .75 for for a "Double Feature," two movies with Cartoons in between. No more Double Features, no more cartoons, doesn't exist. And boy did I Love, and did I have oh so much fun and fantasy, seeing all those great movies as a boy, back in 1960s America, it was just great, it was a "Wonderland," the movies and movie houses of yor.
Well, again, I've gone way off the track again. Were'nt we talking about how to watch a movie? Yep. Now watching a movie in your normal way, and watching a movie with my winemaker cousin Joseph Macari Jr. of the North Fork of Long Island, New York is a whole other story. First off, you're got to have a great movie. A movie with great actors and a great director always helps. When Joe and I would be watching movies, most of them would tend to be what you'd call guy films, such as Mob Movies made by the likes of Italian-American Directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Movies like the Godfather I and II, Goodfellas, Casino, and Raging Bull. The Pope of Greenwich Village by Vincent Partrick, and starring Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts is one of our all-time favorites, as is State of Greace about the Irish Mafia of Hell's Kitchen , New York, and which Gary Oldman turned in one hell of an incredible performance, playing Irish Mob Boss (Ed Harris) crazy brother, Irish Mob Soldier.
So we'd pick a movie, get it ready, then Joe would go down into his wine cellar and grab an amazing bottle of Champagne. And I'm not talking about Vueve Cliquot (Orange Label) or MOET - White Star, I'm talking some really serious Champagne, "The Best of The Best." Joe came back that night with a bottle of BILLECART - SALMON Rose. "Wow!" Well I never had this Champagne before, I'd never even heard of it. Joe popped the cork and poured me a glass. We toasted, and then I took my first sip. Again, "Wow," It was absolutely amazing. And I was in love. Yes I do love that Champagne, Billecart - Salmon Rose. It is so very delicious, and some have said, the Brut Rose Champagne produced by the Champagne House of Billecart - Salmon is a reference point as to how a great French Rose Champagne should taste, and that's absolutely marvelous. And it should "Blow Your Mind" so to speak as that wine did for my that night, way back in the Fall of the year 2000. Yes Billecart Rose, as we call it, has to be my number 1 al-time favorite of all the great CHampagnes of France. And I've had many great champagnes, and ones that are far more expensive, and some might think better, than the Rose of Billecart Salmon, but not me. It was that special night, hanging out with my cousin Joe, watching Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts in The Pope of Greenwich Village, enjoying the film, laughing, talking about it, and savoring that fine Champagne.
Billecart - Salmon
The champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon are above all created thanks to the knowledge of the men who rigorously cultivate an estate of 100 hectares, obtaining grapes from an area totaling 300 hectares across 40 crus of the Champagne region.
The majority of the grapes used for vinification come from a radius of 20km around Epernay, where the Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay co-exist, in the ethereal vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.
Yes, we do love our Champagne, we're music lover, gourmands, and film buffs, and we combine these interests into some very sepcial times. Over the years we watched Man on Fire with Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, The Silence of The Lambs and other great movies. And we drank wines like Solaia, Tiganello, Taittinger's Comtes di Champagne and other great wines, and vintage Champagne. Our, and by the way, I haven't completely set the scene. When Joe and I watched these movies and drank Champagne, it was after the whole family, after a long day at Macari Vineyards, we'd all have a nice dinner together. We cooked, ate, chatted, and drank some nice wine with dinner. Then, as everyone was quite tired and would retire to bed, Joe and I would get our movie, an awesome bottle of Champagne, and we'd dig in. Dig into a classic film and some Vintage Champagne."Now that my friends, is How You Watch a Movie. Wouldn't you agree?" Basta !
Me & Cousin Joe
Drinking Prosecco in VENICE
James Caan, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and John Cazale
As The CORELONE FAMILY
Sonny, Don Vito, Michael, and Freddo
In FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA'S The GODFATHER
"Joe and I drank "MILLE Una NOTTE" from our friends The RALLO FAMILY of DONNAFUGATA , Marsala, SICILY when we watched this one. We had to, great Sicilian Wine and a Sicilian Family, The CORLEONES of Corleone, Sicilia ...
STATE of GRACE
Wine Pairing ?
IRISH WHISKEY of Course !
Our Wine Pairing ?
RUINART BLANC di BLANC
BLANC de BLANCS
Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) would approve of the Champagne selection, "I'm sure."
For me, Pulp Fiction was an absolute Masterpiece, and easily director Quentin Tarrantino's greatest film. I really liked Tarrantino's first film Resevoir Dogs, but not nearly as much as Pulp Fiction, which is in my Top 10 Films.
John Travolta, Ving Raimes, Eric Stolz, Harvey Keitel, and Samuel L. Jackson were awesome in the film, as was Uma.
The screenplay by Tarrantio and Roger Avery was the base of this great film. I'm still waiting for tarrantino to make at least one more great film, but just for this masterpiece alone, for me he's a genius. And I love another screenplay that Tarrantino wrote, but didn't direct the movie. And that would be the movie True Romance, directed by the late great Tony Scott (RIP).
Robert DeNiro as JAKE LaMOTTA
In Martin Scorsese 's RAGING BULL
Wine Pairing ?
Raging Bull, another great film classic from director Martin Scorsese. KRUG Grande Cuvee, what can you say, "This Champagne is Amazing!" It's KRUG after all?
Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper
TONY SCOTT'S "TRUE ROMANCE"
As Vincenzo Cocotti and Cliff Worley
WINE PAIRING for TRUE ROMANCE ?
POL ROGER "SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL"
POL ROGER - SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
"Dam I Love this Champagne!" What's not to Love? Pol Roger- Sir Winston Churchill is one of the Best Champagne's money can buy, "you just can't get any better." Full of those yeasty bready Brioche flavors that I love in fine Vintage Champagne. And the movie True Romance, what can I say? Dam, I just flipped for this film the first time I saw it. And seeing this movie and Christian Slater's awesome performance as Clarence Worly, just blew my mind, and I finally gained respect for Christian's acting abilities. I've know Christian since he was about 10 years old, and his mother, powerhouse Casting Director Mary Jo Slater used to bring him to a restaurant I worked in long ago (the 1980s).
This film was awesome from beginning to end, and is one of Quentin Tarrantino's greatest works. he wrote the screenplay, but didn't make the movie, which was directed by Tony Scott. The movie is filled with one awesome ensemble cast which includes: the stars Slater and Patricia Arquette (ALabama), along with cameos by Dennis Hopper (Slater's father), Christopher Walkin as Mob Boss Vincenzo Cocotti, Brad Pitt as Michael Rappaport's "Stoner Friend," Val Kilmer plays ELVIS PRESLEY, Gary Oldman is aboslutely Electrifying as wannabe Rastafarian Drug Dealer / Pimp called Drexl.
Anyway, I love the movie, and was oh so happy to turn Joe on to it. He had never seen it before, and he abolutely loved it. We had a great time watching it together, and The Sir Winston Chruchill Champagne did not hurt at all. "It was incredible!"
to be Continued ....
I will add to my reviews of both the Movies, Actors, and Champagne's at a later date. Hope you all enjoy this for now. So until the next great movie, and the next great French Champagne. As Arnold would say, "Hasta la Vista Baby!"