Chianti,Chianti Classico,Italy,Sangiovese,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Blogger,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine Country Inn,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine Exports,Wine Hospitality,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Wine Writer,Wine-Blog,Winemaker,Winery,Wines

When It’s Traditional and It’s in Tuscany ~ Day 2

I was the guest of Castello di Meleto in Gaiole ~ In the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Hosted by Antonia Caserta (sales manager), their winemaker Matteo Menicacci, and their agronomist Giovanni Maria Farina. Antonia translated, and I was also in the company of Michael Yurch (Bluest Sky Group) and Michael Apstein from Apstein On Wine.

This was the beginning of an adventure that I like to think of The Rapunzel Phase. 

The word “monk” comes from the Greek word “monachos” meaning “single” or “solitary.” It means to practice asceticism by living alone or with any number of other monks. Dedicating one’s life to serving others, or voluntarily choosing to leave mainstream society to live life in prayer and contemplation. In Greek the word can apply to women, but in modern English it is for men, as the word “nun” would be used for female monks.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, my bedroom where Benedictine Monks once lived. I doubt that the furnishings were anything like this; however I felt their spirit spirits still connected.]

Off to lunch I went… I’m sharing the menu with you, perhaps for curiosity, or perhaps as inspiration.

The following is their Tuscan Menu ~ Castello di Meleto

Surrounded by Italian history and elegance, originally a Benedictine monastery, now a winery and hospitality center straordinario, this was my time to learn about this slice of life.


Lunch Wednesday, October 10

I’m remiss that I didn’t get a photo of the Sformato di verdure, listed as the first course. My entire surroundings were so dazzlingly charming, it truly was like being in a fairy tale. It was a social gathering at first, and we were there to taste wine, with antipasti ~ Meet and greet… I had to finally pull myself back, to put what I was seeing and beginning to taste into photos and words. That was just as the second course was arriving. I was totally one with the castle for a while. I just lost track of everything, except for what I was seeing; a super Zen moment.

Sformato di verdure – (Vegetable quiche), paired with BORGAIO IGT TOSCANA ROSATO 2017.

This Rosato is so invitingly aromatic and floral, reminding me of orange blossom in spring time. The flavors are deliciously refreshing.  The wine is only 12.5 percent alcohol, a perfect food accompaniment, especially with cheese dishes.

From Castello di Meleto ~ Vinification: Grapes are handpicked and placed in small crates in order to reduce skin breakage. After being gently destemmed and softly crushed, the must is chilled and left on the skins for a few hours. After pressing, a part of the must is cold-clarified and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of maximum 17°C [62.6°F].


Penne pomodorini e pesto (Penne pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes), paired with BORGAIO IGT TOSCANA ROSSO 2017.

This BORGAIO IGT TOSCANA ROSSO was Tuscany. This was what I’ve dreamed about, including an actual Italian dream. I understood every word. Did I mention I don’t speak a word of Italian? I do know how to taste it though. Slow and easy.

A garnet color; I remember a bit of light shining through and thinking, “this is going to be so tasty.” Yeah, it was all that and more. Rich, juicy, and expressive Chianti grapes, from this stressed out terroir.  I was going to see the vineyard later, and I knew I was going to be liking all of this, as much as you would.

From Castello di Meleto ~ Vinification: Grapes are harvested by hand and machine and destemmed and gently crushed before undergoing alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 25/28°C for a period of 15 to 20 days. After racking, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in cement tanks.

Arista con pecorino e salvia (Pork loin with pecorino and sage, with Patate al sesamo  and oven roasted sesame seed potatoes), paired with Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016.

Here came the big boy, showing its Italian muscle and flare, like a sophisticated Italian man wearing a grand scarf.  They wear them so well, really, like this Reserve Chianti. It had flare, it had style, and it had perfect body, pairing really well with the pecorino and pork combination. The fruit flavors of the opulent Sangiovese grapes just blended with the pork dish. By now, the crisp potatoes were also becoming a favorite. I hadn’t thought of adding sesame seeds! It was all very much like comfort food, taken up a notch.

From Castello di Meleto ~ Vinification: Grapes are harvested by hand and machine and destemmed and gently crushed before undergoing alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 25/28°C for a period of 15 to 20 days. After racking, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in cement tanks.This wine is 100 percent Sangiovese, and very characteristic for Tuscany’s red wine backbone. The Meleto Chianti Classico is a very smooth and savory wine. Full bodied and rich, yet the softer tannins makes it wonderful to enjoy (alone of with food). Aging: 15

To finish our meal, and be ready for the afternoon festivities…

Cantucci al Vin Santo (Biscotti), paired with an in-house spirit. By the end of this meal. we were offered grappa, and we all just looked at each other and had a great laugh; not intended to insult our hosts. I was more of, we are all so satisfied, were would we find the room of it?

I did let down my hair on this one… Who wouldn’t?


Food & Wine,Food and Wine,Italy,Red Wine,Tuscany,White Wine,Wine,Wine & Food,Winery,Wines

Pairing Tuscan Wines with Tuscan Cuisine ~ Day 1

GUEST: I was a guest at Castello di Meleto, in Gaiole (the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany), as orchestrated by Michael Yurch, of The Bluest Sky Group.

When we, as Americans, think of Italian cuisine, pasta immediately comes to mind, right? In a word association game, I say Italian food, and most people respond with either pasta or pizza. Headed to Tuscany, I saw ginormous, eyes-open-wide bowls of pasta ahead of me. I was so ready to chow down. But, as soon as the time came for me to order something for myself… I didn’t even go in either direction.

After 15.5 hour of travel, and going ahead in Italian time (by seven hours), I really thought I was so ready for either pasta or pizza.

I headed downstairs to have my first, authentic Italian experience at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Rome. In the the Mediterranean-style hotel’s lobby, I was completely surrounded by intriguing sculpture. I didn’t study it for very long. Hungry, I’d return later with my camera.

The above picture is of Marco, my wonderful waitserver. The menu was like reading a private love letter. Lyrical, embracing, and magical food mysteries were awaiting.  My eyes caught “Bistecca di pollo fritto” ~ Choosing the wine to go with it?

“Your house Puglia, please, to go with my Bistecca di pollo fritto.”

SIDEBAR: I’ve studied French and Spanish, but never Italian; and yet, I had a dream in Italian, and I understood every single word. Startled, I just awoke. I asked my husband what it could possibly mean. “In a past life you were Italian.” It made sense and we both just went back to sleep. Even now, though, something inside me wants to burst, when I hear Italian being spoken. But, I digress into another story fun…

So, off we went the next day… From Rome to Gaiole (in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany)…. When we arrived, there wasn’t a bowl of pasta or a pizza in sight. Honestly, it really didn’t matter anymore. I was already acclimating. No more expectations, just wonderment.

Instead, I was headed to Castello di Meleto, where I’d begin to learn to learn the culture of food and wine in Tuscany, through their wines and foods, prepared by their chef team of Maura, Alina, Irina, and Michaela…

Tuscan foods, according to the acclaimed, Florence Chef Giuliano Bugialli, in his preface for is Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy:

“The food of Italy is certainly among the most visually striking in the world, and its appeal is most direct when seen against its own background and landscape. Dishes seem to reflect the sea and sky, the countryside and cityscape, the whole Italian way of looking at things. This is an elusive magic…”

Arriving at Castello di Meleto

Castello di Meleto ~ Located in Gaiole, the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany…

After a few of offerings like the foods listed below, perhaps the adventurer in you might even decide this is worth witnessing and/or tasting for yourself. If you can’t get there, try pairing your similar wines with any of these foods. If you have Castello di Meleto’s wines, all the more authentic.

Ahead of my arrival, I had been asked about possible food sensitives, and I shared. The menu below was crafted to make sure that fish wasn’t being offered. (“It’s best not to send anyone home in a body bag, if it can be avoided,” said she, who is allergic to fish.)

Already written stories of Castello di Meleto, if you’d like more information going into this story:

Tomorrow, the continuation of this story, with Castello di Meleto’s food and wine pairing menu… Totally decadent and completely authentic…

No Pizza in sight, but yes… a bit of pasta.



Award,Philanthropy Thru Wine,Sonoma County,Wine,Wine Awards

Sonoma County Innovators and Icons to Be Honored ~ 2019 Sonoma County Barrel Auction

Each year, Sonoma County has a Barrel Auction. This is your opportunity to own a truly one-of-a-kind wine. I’ll write about their weekend events. For now, I just want to highlight who is going to be honored: the Innovators and the Icons.


Cultivated in Sonoma County’s most acclaimed vineyards. Handcrafted by legendary winemakers. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to taste, bid, and possibly own, a masterpiece of Sonoma County winemaking. Auction lots range from 5 to 20 cases, giving trade buyers the opportunity to offer true original wines for resale to their customers and ultra-premium wine collectors.

MAY 3, 2019

The Sonoma County Barrel Auction has traditionally celebrated Sonoma County Icons, vintners who have shaped the heritage and history of Sonoma County winemaking. New this year, Sonoma County Vintners have added the category of Innovators, to honor forward thinking visionaries in the Sonoma County wine community. They’ll be celebrated at a private reception, to be held on Thursday, May 2, 2019, at Seghesio Family Vineyards. They will also be honored at the Barrel Auction, on May 3.

2019 Sonoma County Innovators and Icons

The Duncan Family, Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley


Under the direction of David R. Duncan, President and CEO, Tim Duncan, Chief Revenue Officer, and his daughter Haley Duncan, LEED AP, the Duncan family together have achieved LEED Platinum Sustainability Certification, the highest level of certification, at Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley. It is the first winery in the world to earn this certification under the category of Building Design and Construction. Globally recognized, LEED is the most widely used green building rating system. LEED buildings are known to save energy, water, resources, generate less waste and support human health.

Ron Rubin, Ron Rubin Winery, Green Valley of Russian River Valley


After experiencing a rapid heartbeat ventricular tachycardia and being saved by a defibrillator, Ron Rubin made it his personal mission to pay it forward by launching the “Trained for Saving Lives” program. In collaboration with the American Red Cross and ZOLL Medical Corporation, Ron Rubin has covered the cost of one ZOLL® AED Plus® (Automated External Defibrillator) unit for over 100 Sonoma County wineries and expanded the program to include the entire North Coast, including: Napa, Solano, Lake, Marin and Mendocino Counties. To date, he has provided over 200 defibrillators throughout the entire North Coast.

Margo Van Staaveren, Chateau St. Jean, Valley of the Moon


Margo Van Staaveren celebrated her 38th harvest with Chateau St. Jean in 2018 and is the winery’s fourth winemaker. Upon joining the winery in 1980 as a lab tech, she worked her way up through various positions before becoming head winemaker in 2003. Margo was instrumental in helping create Cinq Cépages, a Sonoma County Bordeaux blend, which was awarded “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 1999, the first Sonoma County winery to receive this prestigious distinction. Margo was recognized by Wine Enthusiast as Winemaker of the Year in 2008, the first female winemaker to receive this honor.


Rod Berglund, Joseph Swan Vineyards, Russian River Valley


Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan Vineyards has been making wine for 40 years, 32 of those at Joseph Swan. His winemaking career began at La Crema Viñera (now La Crema) in 1979. When Joe Swan, his friend and mentor, asked him to help him finish the 1987 vintage, he joined him for what would become his final vintage. Joe became ill that winter and Rod gradually took over the day-to-day operations prior to Joe’s passing. Rod’s service and dedication to Sonoma County has spanned his entire career—from being one of the founding members of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers to acting as President of Wine Road to helping move forward Sonoma County conjunctive labeling.


Alps,Italian Alps,Italy,Pinot Grigio,Pinot Gris,Pinot Noir,Wine

Wines from the Italian Alps, what a rare region and delicious occurrence

When I was asked to taste PETER ZEMMER wines from the Italian Alps, as samples, “What a rare opportunity; wines from the Italian Alps are so unfamiliar for many. Mr. Zemmer’s terroir and wines are a real treat!” I thought.

And, do you know what? We’re a curious lot, right? It’s rare enough, tasty enough, and gosh darn it, we’re adventurous. So, bring it on.

Once tasted, years ago, the first thing I learned is that Peter Zemmer delivers on his promise to capture distinct, delicious, and gutsy terroir, which then all translates well into his wines’ rich flavors, from his beloved Italian Alps. Think about that this climate for a moment, and understand that this is very site specific.

[Photo: Olaf Unger – A view of the Adige Valley from Merano to Bolzano, standing at the mountain inn.]


  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements. I’ll also add some of my own indented information.
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to trying to
  2. SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING, THE WINERY ~ Jo Diaz has interspersed notes from some research.
  3. SOUL ~ SAMPLE ~ Jo Diaz Musings


The Alpine Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio offers a totally different experience, terroir-wise, BTW.The Italian Alps has picture-perfect, ski country. In 1919, this was once part of Austria’s famous South Tyrol, winter wonderland. It is also the region that was ceded to Italy; where winemakers, for generations, have worked with international grapes.



From Northern Italy’s Alto (high) Adige region, where small villages are tucked into narrow valleys, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, comes a piercingly fresh, full-of-flavor Pinot Grigio and an elegantly delightful Pinot Noir. The Adige is the second longest river in Italy after the Po. It rises into the Alps, in the province of South Tyrol. Near the Italian border with Austria and Switzerland, it flows 255 miles, through most of North-East Italy and into the Adriatic Sea.

Peter Zemmer’s extensive experience, detailed and innovative knowledge together with the perfect natural environment guarantees top quality and character of the wines. The expressive character of the wines is formed in the vineyard. Intensive nurturing of the grapevines as well as careful selection are the essential prerequisites for the authentic wines. Peter Zemmer believes the production of natural wines that accurately reflect their terroir are of utmost importance.

FROM HB WINE MERCHANTS: Today, the Adige Valley is a contender for Italy’s premier white wine region, thanks to an ideal climate, talented, individualistic winemakers, and singularly distinctive wines. This distinguished Alpine style of Pinot Grigio is leading the pack, where stylistically these flavor are already “in style.”

[PHOTO: Janos Gaspar ~ Alpine resort in the Dolomites,Cortina D Ampezzo,South Tyrol,Italy,Europe]


Peter Zemmer is one of the Alto Adige’s most respected wine-grower/winemakers, running the eponymous winery founded in 1928, by his grandfather, in the tiny 600-person village of Cortina.

You might think ski country too cold for grapes, but the average growing season temperature is 64° F, and the area enjoys an enviable 1,800 hours (about 300 days) of sunshine a year. In summer, daytime temperatures can reach the 90s, but hot days are always followed by cool nights. Add in the fact that the warm Adriatic coast is not far away and you get a singular climatic blend of Mediterranean-Alpine influences.

The Peter Zemmer winery is situated in the middle of the narrow valley floor. Zemmer feels that this location, with its well aerated vineyards and exposure to maximum sunlight, constitutes one of the best terroirs in the region. If Mother Nature provides ventilation through wind, the well-aerated soil is there – an outcome of sustainable, herbicide-free farming. Only organic fertilizer is used, resulting from the clover, wild flowers and grasses that grow between the rows of vines. Healthy, loose soil facilitates optimal water distribution and faster warming during the critical spring months.

While the average elevation is around 1,600 feet, the grapes come from both the mountain valley floor and the steep surrounding hillsides, lending adding natural complexity to the final wine. For top-notch quality, add in low yields (60 hl/ha), vigilant sorting, use of ambient yeast, slow fermentation in stainless steel, and aging on the lees for several months.


[PHOTO: Jo Diaz]

SOUL ~ 2017 PETER ZEMMER Pinot Grigio

Peter Zemmer’s Pinot Gris is very much differing from less flavorful, valley grapes, grown in the Italian Alps. Since the establishment of this family business in 1928, Peter Zemmer’s winery has been producing top-quality wines, from the finest vineyards in and around Cortina s.s.d.v., in Alto Adige – South Tyrol.

So, after all this care, what distinguishes an Alto Adige, and specifically a Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio? This alpine Alto Adige Pinot Grigio is both bracingly fresh and round in the mouth, elegantly racy, yet expertly flavorful.

Peter Zemmer’s Pinot Gris defines what wine lovers accustomed to something more bold and flavorful have come to  expect, if it’s an Italian Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy’s Peter Zemmer, it’s quality, quality, and did I mention quality?


SOUL ~ 2017 Südtirol – Alto Adige Pinot Noir

As for the PETER ZEMMER Rollhütt Pinot Noir ~ it’s softly elegant, a bit restrained. The belief of the company is to let the flavors of the wines begin in the soil, and this terroir lends itself to the Pinot Noir being authentic to the Südtirol region. This wine is a delicious 13 percent alcohol. Intended to be a great food and wine complement, it’s achieved its goal. European wines are crafted to be part of their food and wine culture. Lower alcohol wines lend themselves well to food and wine pairings, and this one is a total gem. We had it with Ribolita, and Italian version of France’s French Onion soup. In this version, not only is there a soup base, but there are also veggies and whatever the day before has for left overs. Ribolita is an authentic Italian experience. If we, as Americans, had more food consciousness and time to cook, this 2017 Südtirol – Alto Adige Pinot Noir is the blessing of the century for a wine house wine staple.

by HB Wine Merchants, New York, NY

Available in major metropolitan markets nationwide for a retail price of approximately $16 per 750 ml bottle.








Book Sample,Books,Wine,Wine Novel,Wine Related Novel

Wine Novels ~ If you haven’t read any, what are you waiting for?

Wine novels have been coming my way. Dick Rosano – one of my wine writing friends – has been my point of reference for wine novels, since 2012. Most books I receive as sample reading are not really found in the fantasy department; they’re purposefully educational. What seems to be happening, from my observations for this year, is that more very talented writers and journalists have hit their stride. What they’ve learned along the way has been enough to fill a novel, so they’ve done just that… and the influx of wine novels in 2019 seems astounding.

My foray into wine novels was lukewarm, I must admit. I wanted substance; the guts and the glory of all things wine, not someone’s imaginings. I did, however trepidatiously, accept my first wine novel. It totally led me along a new path of enjoyment, and meeting some very clever and funny people in the process…

True confessions:

  1. Wine novels are a breath of fresh air
  2. My snobbery toward them, before reading one, was completely that… just snobbery

People within the wine business learn so much every day, from each new petal of the ever opening, wine business lotus… Novels are a welcomed escape hatch; for not only the authors, but also for the readers. These authors take their areas of expertise, and turn them into what seems at first, light learning; but, if that were truly so, why I bother to furiously take notes?

If you click on any of the following links, more details will be found.

Here’s a wine novel list, if there ever was one.

The Charlemagne Connection, by Novelist R.M. Cartmel

The Richebourg Affair, by Novelist R.M. Cartmel

Red Mountain ~ A Novel ~ Boo Walker

White with Fish, Red with Murder ~ a novel by Harley Mazuk

Peter Stafford-Bow ~ debut novel, entitled “Corkscrew – the highly improbable”

Brut Force follows Corkscrew in Rollicking Hilarity, Outlandish Intrigue, and rooting for Felix Hart, Again

It All Begins in The Vineyard with “Root Cause”

Antoine Laurain’s Vintage 1954… It Was An Intriguing Year

Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto ~ When you’ve been in Italy, books help the cultural return



Event,Napa,Stags Leap District,Wine,Wine & Food,Wine Country,Wine Hospitality

If You Love Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District, This Event Has Your Name All Over It

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated, wine grape-growing region in the United States,and has been for the nearly 39 years.  The Augusta AVA surrounds the area in and around the town of Augusta, Missouri, which was the first recognized AVA recognized in the US, gaining their  status on June 20, 1980. Stags Leap’s AVA designation happened in 1989.

It’s now been 30 years since the founding of the Stags Leap American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation, highlighting this specific areas of wine making in the Napa Valley. In celebration of this defining moment in wine grape growing history, the Stags Leap District Winegrowers have announced a schedule of events for its thirtieth anniversary celebration weekend affair. It’s going to be held on Friday through Sunday, April 26 to 28, 2019. Rare library selections, decadent meals, in-depth education, and exclusive vintner access will be the highlight as wine enthusiasts explore the region with the winemakers and principals who craft the wines from vineyard to bottle. Tickets for the event, which are expected to sell out and are only limited to 200 guests, became available online on Thursday, February 14.

In Honor of the Milestone

Stags Leap District Winegrowers will be donating $50.00 of each ticket purchased, benefiting the University of California at Davis’ Nathan Fay Graduate Fellowship Fund. The endowment was established by the Stags Leap District Winegrowers in 2000, as a tribute to district pioneer Nathan Fay, who planted the first Cabernet vines in the region in 1961. The coveted scholarship is awarded each year to one graduate student in the School of Enology and Viticulture.

Schedule for the Weekend

Quick Details, Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Stags Leap District at Vineyard to Vintner Weekend

Friday, April 26, 2019 ~ 6:30 – 10:00 p.m.: Exclusive Vintner-Hosted Library Wine Dinners

Saturday, April 27, 2019 ~ 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Digging Deeper: Vineyard Walks, Seminars, and Tastings

Saturday, April 27, 2019 ~ 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: 30th Anniversary Luncheon Celebration

Sunday, April 28, 2019 ~ 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Savor SLD

Tickets and Additional Information

This celebratory weekend is limited to just 200 guests. Tickets will be released February 14, 2019. The Friday through Sunday experience (April 26-28, 2019) is $895 per person, which includes access to all the 30th Anniversary at Vineyard to Vintner events. Complete details are available at www.stagsleapdistrict.com/V2V.


Books,Colonarra Viticultori,Le Marche,Tuscany,Wine,Wine Book,Wine Country,Wine Novel,Wine Writer

Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto ~ When you’ve been in Italy, books help the cultural return

BOOK REVIEW: How Andrew Cotto unravels his Cucina Tipica novel is cleverly maneuvered. I just couldn’t put the book down for much else, until I got to “The End.” As I was about to finish his book, my heart was pounding and so wanting an ending I could live with. Cucina Tipica is story about finding an identity, for someone disheartened, which dates back to our hero’s birth right. Jacoby Pine had an isolated youth, for reasons you’ll want to explore, and it’s doled out in measured increments.

Life hasn’t been easy or entitled for Jacoby, and a trip to Italy soothes his soul in many ways. But does he have to return to a life on the East Coast of the US, which was so unfulfilling? The anxiety had tears running down my cheeks, while I feigned irritated eyes to my husband. The one delight I have with any novel written, by someone who’s wine and region knowledgeable, is that I learn so much about our wine business and its culture in the process, almost as much as visiting a wine region. The fact that this book was written where I had just traveled? It held me in spellbound suspense, right up to the time when I finally and reluctantly closed Cucina Tipica, having all of the answers.


As I was on the last page of Cucina Tipica, my eyes swelled and a tear indiscriminately rolled down each cheek. I know, I know, it’s a girly thing. Still, it’s also a guy thing, if – in any way whatsoever – you (guy) can related to the main character Jacoby Pines. And I know there are plenty of guys who can relate…

Last October, I had the good fortune to accompany Michael Yurch, of Bluest Sky Group, to visit two of his Italian clients, located on Central Italy’s peninsula (Castello di Meleto and Colonarra Viticultori), as a guest writer. It was life altering in many ways. Now, if an unexpected inheritance should ever happen, I’d buy an Italian villa, fill it with my entire family, and never look back. That was what I was thinking then, and it’s what I’m still thinking.

I had no more finished and written a review for Root Cause, by Steven Laine, set in Tuscany, when I received an Email from Andrew Cotto. He’s written a novel entitled Cucina Tipica, and he wanted to know if I’d also read and review his book. If the book’s name didn’t just drag me in immediately (which it did), the fact that it was set in Tuscany absolutely sealed the deal. Yes, indeed, I’d love to read this book… If only because – like Steven Laine’s book Root Cause – the book still had me exploring Tuscany. (I’m not really ready to let anything Italian go.) This blog page is my evidence, if you just search on “Italy.”  My recent readings, including Cucina Tipica, are keeping a piece of my soul solidly on Italian soil.

About Andrew Cotto, from his Website 

Andrew Cotto is the award-winning author of three novels and a regular contributor to The New York Times. Andrew has also written for Parade, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Italy magazine, Maxim, and more. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is an educator at local colleges.

If you’d like to know more about Andrew Cotto, this YouTube video is very insightful.


Books,France,Wine,Wine Writer

Antoine Laurain’s Vintage 1954… It Was An Intriguing Year

Antoine Laurain’s Vintage 1954

WINE-BLOG REVIEW: From the moment I touched the book, it was immediate love… The smell and feel of its pages… A tender, Parisienne SciFi, stepping back through a 1950’s portal… all because of a bottle of wine, the right circumstances, and four characters… Every detail of 50’s in this story, and today’s modern times, are found within its pages. There are two realities; or, existentially are they?  It’s for the readers to discover. Antoine Laurain has written a very alluring novel, that I will be reading again, just for the fun of it. My eyes were devouring word candy.


Sharing Press Release  

This captures the heart and soul of Vintage 1954.

Antoine Laurain has captivated American readers with charming books that combine a philosophical idea with an uplifting narrative. Each of his books are like a good fable that leave the reader with something to ponder.

Laurain’s new novel Vintage 1954 features a charming quartet of protagonists, a fabulous bottle of wine, vineyards, a love story and offbeat time travel. It is set in the nostalgic Paris of everyone’s imagination — when Paris was truly the style and cultural capital of Europe and the epitome of utter Frenchness.

When Hubert Larnaudie gets locked in the cellar of an old apartment building that’s been in his family for generations, he celebrates his rescue by opening an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais with his new friends, a ceramics restorer, a bartender, and a tourist from Milwaukee. They have no idea that this batch of wine has special properties. One sip and the next morning they wake up are find themselves in Paris in 1954.  How are they going to get back and what will they learn in the process?

After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and ‘An American in Paris’ begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows. But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to their own lives. And the key lies in a legendary story and the vineyards of the Chateau St Antoine.


From Amazon: About Antoine Laurain

Novelist, journalist, screenwriter and collector of antique keys Antoine Laurain was born in Paris in the early 1970s. After studying cinema, he began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris, an experience which provided the inspiration for his prize-winning debut novel.

Antoine Laurain is a journalist, antiques collector and award-winning author. His novel The President’s Hat was a Waterstones Book Club and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013. Antoine represented France at European Literature Night 2014.  Gallic also published his novels: The Red Notebook, French Rhapsody and The Portrait.

Other details, if you’d like more: Gallic Books, Publication date: June 2019, Trade Paperback, $14.95, 204 pages


Beaujolais,France,French Wine,Importer,Imports,Quintessential Wines,Red Wine,Wine,Wine of the Week,Wine Samples,Winery,Wines

Wine of the Week: Georges Dubœuf Fleurie 2016 (Flower Label)

Sample: Quintessential Wines ~ Georges Dubœuf Fleurie  2016 (Flower Label)


  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: This information came from an interview I had with Franck Duboeuf
  2. SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING ~ From the winery
  3. SOUL ~ Jo’s notes

Photo Credit: ricochet64 ~ Chapel of Saint Pierre in Beaujolais with Mont Brouilly

World Region ~ A.O.C. FLEURIE, FRANCE


Fleurie is the name of the village where this wine is produce. It is one of the largest Beaujolais Crus, in terms of volume, as well as prestige, to the obvious satisfaction of its owners. From a geomorphological standpoint, its vineyards slope down from a chain of granite hilltops, which face eastward toward the morning sun, thus creating optimal exposure for the grapes. There is some variation of soil, according to altitude; from thin, dry and acidic on higher levels to the clay terrain below. The granular textured pinkish soil, which geologists call granitic sand, distinguishes, Fleurie from the other top cru wines, imparting characteristic elegance. Finely The soul is so French. perfumed, Fleurie is “delightful like the first days of spring.”


Georges Duboeuf ‘Flower Label’ Fleurie 2015 100% Gamay’s Harvest is done manually, with whole bunches, de-stemmed. Indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation at temperatures between 82°F-86°F. Maceration is between 8-10 days.

Fleurie is the name of the village where this wine is produce. It is one of the largest Beaujolais Crus in terms of volume, as well as prestige, to the obvious satisfaction of its owners. From a geomorphological standpoint, its vineyards slope down from a chain of granite hilltops, which face eastward toward the morning sun, thus creating optimal exposure for the grapes. There is some variation of soil, according to altitude; from thin, dry and acidic on higher levels to the clay terrain below. The granular textured pinkish soil, which geologists call granitic sand, distinguishes, Fleurie from the other top cru wines, imparting characteristic elegance. Finely perfumed, Fleurie is “delightful like the first days of spring.”

After a careful selection of grapes from small parcels in the region, they are pressed and undergo temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel vats. Twenty percent of the wine is aged in French oak barrels. Harvest is done manually, with whole bunches, de-stemmed. Indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation at temperatures between 82°F-86°F. Maceration is between 8-10 days.


Fleurie is a temptress, a bouquet of flowers, where you just bury your nose to take in of the sumptuous aromas. I really loved this one. Hints of spring, when my irises, violets, and roses begin to bloom again…. those aromas! Then, it develops into more rich flavors of summer, then into fall on the finish. Before it finished, though, the mid palate was the joy of juicy strawberries just picked. It followed into the roundness of peaches, and finished with deep purple/brown figs.

This is a wine that I’d recommend to anyone, at any time, because it makes you think!

[PHOTO: fontaineg1234]


Brut,Event,Ferrari Trento Brut,Italy,Sparkling,Sparkling wine,Wine

St. Valentine’s Day to Sparkle and Shine

Valentine’s Day is a very special day, dedicated to love. As my husband once told me, though, “Everyday is Valentine’s Day.” I thought it was his excuse for not caring about the assigned day for “lovers.” His saying of “Every day is Valentines Day,” as I came to learn, is that it’s an infinity commitment, not a calendar marking. He won’t make one hold be the only day he’s a passionate lover. (Very cool.)

[PHOTO:  Lukas Gojda]

Still, some of us do occasionally enjoy the calendar’s marking, also knowing that every act of love all year long is still a Valentine’s Day moment.

Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers… This  lovers’ festival dates from at least the fourteenth century. Imagine… Blessed are those who find true lovers and true love.

Sparkling wine (of any kind) is escribed to this lovers’ day

Champagne, Sparkling, Brut
~ All bubbles in a bottle

Does anyone else feel it’s easier to digest food, with this sparkling wines’ carbonation?  It settles my stomach, I’m not sure about yours. I just  know my body that well. And… I love bubbles. So, I looked up: “Is Champagne good for digestion?” Sure enough!

“…But champagne is king of the health drinks!” Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby

Champagne is packed with polyphenols, which are antioxidants from the grapes. They help protect your brain and your heart, keep your blood pressure low, and increase the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain.

As it turns out, champagne is very healthy.

Champagne gives you the same amount of antioxidant heart protection as red wine, and way more than blueberries and most fruits, increasing heart muscle energy production, and protecting your heart’s cells from free radical damage.

Lots of reasons to continue from yesterday’s theme

This is still Valentine’s Time To Shine



  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: This information came from the wineries’ notes.
  2. SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING ~ From the winery.
  3. SOUL ~ Jo’s Musings


Ferrari Trento Brut


Ferrari Trento has been awarded the title of “Winery of the Year 2019” by Gambero Rosso (Italian food and wine magazine) “for the amazing quality across its range and for its constant promotion of Made in Italy around the world.”


According to Ferrari Trento, the main reason for this choice is the obsessive search for excellence, which has been leading every single activity of the winery for more than a century. The aim has always been to perfectly express the vocation of Trentino and of its mountain viticulture to produce outstanding bubbles. Gambero Rosso’s focus on the quality for the whole range awards Ferrari’s careful work of research and development, which has led the winery to create new Trentodoc bubbles in the last 20 years. Every new label is at the same time distinctive and


There is no way to say this any better than my initial thoughts on Instagram:

#notetoself ~ I don’t care how excited you are to see the Italian Brut arrive, let Ferrari Trento Brut rest for more than an hour; any time, ever again. You had it so right: you covered the top with a towel, you felt for its pressure point, inched it up carefully, and guided it out of the bottle, but didn’t account for how much pressure those tiny bubbles felt – as they popped into the room. A tiny angle’s share after, and a memorable opening, as the yeast aeronautics burst in, like a spring breeze. Dry, delicious, and delightful… the total package. Very enjoyable…



Extra Brut Première Cuvée MV from Champagne Bruno Paillard, SRP $50

So, I got to acquaint myself with  the fruit of Bruno Paillard’s  labor. It was pre-Christmas, and I knew I could open this sample and experience it. Santa wasn’t yet watching. These bubbles were just exquisite. It made me want to set the table with Limoges for dinner that evening.

SIDEBAR REMINDER: Champagne AOC ~ Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) ~ From Champagne.fr ~ The AOC designation links a product with its geographical origin and makes it subject to rules of production and manufacturing. It expresses the close link between a product and its terroir, coupled with the decisive and enduring impact of human savoir-faire.


Bruno Paillard: Captivating person of wine, from his BIO:

Bruno Paillard is not a businessman who created a Champagne house: he’s a man who created a House to make the Champagne he loves. Bruno Paillard is a part of his Champagne’s DNA, creating a highly personal expression. He makes the blends, nosing and tasting over new 250 base wines each vintage. Comments daughter Alice, who now shares in  the decision-making process: “He has an excellent nose.”


But there is … reason for cellaring these wines: well-made champagnes have an exciting, ever-changing, long post-disgorgement life, evolving through the era of youthful fruit, then flowers, spices, biscuit and finally to the mature elegance of honey and candied fruits after a decade under cork. To indicate where the wine is in its life-cycle, Bruno Paillard states the disgorgement date on each bottle. Today it is fairly common practice, but Bruno Paillard was the first in 1983 – and for nearly 20 years the ONLY producer to provide this valuable information. One reason Paillard did so was to counter the widely-held misconception that champagne under cork cannot age. But, older champagnes taste delicious!



Sigh… A work of art via alchemy… the yeasty aromas, the zippy bubble rushing toward the daylight after a slumber of all slumbers… It was just what the Pleasure Police ordered. Champagne, oh Champagne… How I love thee, Bruno Paillard, for what you do. You’re bubbles are ex

When I finally got to process my image on Instagram, there were my hashtags: #Champagne #BrunoPaillard #HappyChineseNewYear #Solushandlovely #creamy #verydelicious #Sample #gratitude

Just every lovely description imaginable, this was a very fine moment. Highly Recommended.