Italy,Native Variety,Red Wine,Veneto,White Wine,Wine,Wine Century Club

The World of Wine ~ Romeo and Juliette, when you have an adventurous palate

SAMPLES: The following are two springtime-worthy wines, fresh from Famiglia Pasqua, and the vineyards of the Veneto region in northeast Italy.

“Pasqua” coincidentally means “Easter” in Italian – a fittingly wine for this coming Easter Sunday, è giusto?

The Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Rosso 2016 and the Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Bianco 2017 samples arrived together. Each has a suggested retail of $16.00, and are honestly really great value wines. They’re crafted from this leading Venetian wine company, located in Italy’s northeast, Veneto region; think Veneto, think Venice.

Romeo & Juliet… Verona is indelibly associated with one of the world’s most famous love stories. The story resonates still; every day around 3,000 messages are written on the 20-foot wall of Juliet’s house in Cappello Street. The label for Pasqua’s Romeo & Juliet wines features an eye-catching photo of that graffitied wall, shot by photographer Giò Martorana, with the PassioneSentimento wine name superimposed.

[PHOTO: Eugeniu Frimu ~ Daylight view to Venetian Lagoon and parked boats. People walking on sidewalk near colorful historic architecture buildings. Murano Island, Venice, Italy]

The Veneto Region, from Italia, the national agency of tourism: Veneto :

Situated in Italy’s northeast, Veneto extends from the Dolomites to the Adriatic Sea, by way of an expansive range of hills and a valley furrowed by rivers, canals, and the Po River Delta.

The typical scenery of Veneto’s coast is the Venetian lagoon, and, right on this very lagoon stands perhaps the most unique city in the entire world – Venice, visited by millions of tourists every year.


  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements.
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to trying to
  3. SOUL ~ SAMPLE ~ Jo Diaz Musings



Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine is an historic winery that produces high quality Veneto and Italian wines and one of the main players in the Italian and international wine market. A family passion. A century long history. The history of Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine begins in 1925, when the first generation of the Pasqua brothers came to Verona and established a new business devoted to the trade of wines from their homeland, Apulia. From wine trade and retail, they decided to become a real winery. In a few years, with the acquisition of new vineyards in the Verona area, the company progressively gained importance and visibility.

During the 60s, the second generation of the family entered the business, bringing about an opening to export and an orientation toward quality. The constitution of Cecilia Beretta in the 80s, the agricultural estate and innovative research centre for vines, grafting techniques and vineyards, is the symbol of the family’s constant quest for excellence.

When the third generation, composed by Riccardo, Alessandro, Cecilia and Giovanni, started to lead the company, the international market orientation boosted to a peak in 2009, with the foundation of Pasqua Usa LLC in New York. The company now sells wines in 50 countries worldwide.

DRYING GRAPES [PHOTO: Jo Diaz of Giovanni Maria-Farini, at Castello di Meleto]


The Veneto is synonymous with Amarone and its appassimento production technique. The drying of grapes to concentrate flavors and aromas, appassimento is an expensive process. To begin with, grapes must be hand-harvested, to avoid damage to the skins, and to enable a selection of bunches in which fruit is spaced more widely apart. Consider, too, that by the end of the 3-months drying process, the fruit will have lost up to 60 percent in volume; thus, many more grapes are needed to make Amarone than is the case for a “standard” red wine. The Pasqua family, however, had the startling idea of making a less expensive white and a red wine, in which grapes lose “only” 15-30 percent volume. Launched in 2014, close on 170,000 cases of Romeo & Juliet PassioneSentimento (Passion-Feeling) were sold in 2017 alone, with the U.S. representing about one-third of the total. Not bad in less than five years!


The preparations, mentioned above, are not lost on this wine.

Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Bianco 2017 ~ Believed to be the only dry (operative word, dry) white wine created by using the appassimento process. This wine is created with the Garganega, native variety. It was harvested by hand, early in the season: lower brix = lower alcohol. The grapes are first dried, for about two weeks. This concentrates aromas and flavors. Then the grapes are crushed, and allowed to macerate and for 12 hours. This process allows even more depth of flavors and structure, creating a very deliciously complex, white wine. One, one final touch… A segment of this wine is then ages in French oak for a few month. Then, the final blend is bottled, and you WANT to know what this one tastes like, if you have an adventurous palate. 

As beguiling as Juliette ever was, this wine’s bouquet reminds me of Mediterranean climate peaches and apricots, also delivering extraordinary citrus aromas, like Meyer lemons. Flavors are refreshing, well balanced and lingering, as the story of Romeo and Juliette still lingers a out best known love story.

Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Rosso 2016 ~ This is also a dry red wine, from the Veneto region, which is neither an Amarone, nor a Valpolicella. This really represents going against the grain of the past, in terms of the grape varieties used during the appassimento process. While Romeo and Juliet experienced forbidden love, not being allowed to love each due to their rival families, this Passione Sentimento Rosso has a happy ending… The yin of the yang… The Romeo and Juliet Full Circle

Making this wine begins with whole berries, which are put into small crates. These crates then go into a drying shed, from four to six weeks. The grapes go through dehydration. Extracted fruit has highly concentrated flavors, as you can imagine. More sugar, the fruit flavors are dense, and terroir – that all-encompassing “from right here” – flavors are exaggerated. then, this wine has three months of aging.

This blend is intriguing. It’s Merlot (40 percent), Corvina (30 percent), and Croatina (30 percent). It’s not the Merlot that shakes me to the core… Merlot was my first Vitis vinifera tasted, beyond Manischewitz and then Mateus. It was about the Corvina and Croatina. Getting to taste native wine grape varieties is an adventure… An adventure that’s almost enticingly forbidden, and yet there it is. It’s thrilling to taste outside of the ordinary. And this Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Rosso exactly fits the bill. It’s a potpourri of exotic spices, with rich, red stone fruit flavors, replicating Shakespeare’s intensity.

  • The Last Corvina I had was a 2008 Punta Crena Colline Savonesi IGT Cruvin, in 2010.
  • It was my first time tasting Croatina, in this blend.

This is a very distinctive innovation in flavors. Dare to fall in love, again. It will have a delicious finish.

The End




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How A Small Company Finds Intriguing and Unique In-Roads to Success

Anne Bousquet – Al Ameri, CEO, Partner


Meeting Anne Bousquet – Al Ameri, of Domaine Bousquet, Mendoza Argentina, at Barn Diva in Healdsburg, brought not only the distance of the two hemispheres closer together, but it also connected many more fascinating dots during the meeting, of how to succeed against all odds.

Anne Bousquet arrived at Barn Diva with friendly enthusiasm, to tell me about her family winery’s success, in the western region of Tupungato, Argentina. I not only learned about that, but I also learned that there’s still hope for a small producer, somewhere in the world, to also take the world by storm.

Traveling in Northern California, Anne was accompanied by Kate Morgan-Corcoran of Creative Palate Communications, an East Coast full-service, public relations and marketing communications agency. Anne also brought her family’s wines to enjoy, with differing foods and conversations, at Barn Diva.


Domaine Bousquet

In the early 1990’s, Anne’s father Jean Bousquet visited Tupungato, Argentina. Four generations of winemaker history, Jean arrived from Carcassonne, located in southern France. He was searching for exceptional terroir, in order to start a new winery. By 1997, a parcel of land was purchased and the family relocated from France to the foothills of the Andes, when Jean had sold his southern France vineyard and winery property. The land he purchased in Tupungato, was completely developed, with no wineries anywhere to be seen. This is land in the Uco Valley. [For perspective, Tupungato is an hour south of Mendoza City.]

Anne talked about everyone saying to her father, including his real estate agent, “That land! Nobody wants to be in that land. Look! Nobody is growing grapes there. It’s empty, barren land.” But, her father knew what he wanted to do, if only through intuition.

It was like… “He came, he saw, he conquered.”

From 1990 to 2019: Today, the read on Tupungato terroir, according to wine-searcher:

Tupungato is the northernmost sub-region of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. The region lies at the foot of the Mt Tupungato volcano, which, at 21,555 ft (6570m) high, is one of the highest peaks in Argentina. The altitude of the vineyards brings clarity of light, water and air and moderates the high temperatures associated with lower latitudes. Full-bodied red wines made from Malbec and crisp, elegant whites made from Chardonnay are specialties of the terroir here.

Jean Bousquet achieved one dream after the other, right up to and including being ready to begin wine sales. Simultaneously, Anne’s educational experiences were preparing her to help grow her family’s Domaine Bousquet. When he was ready, to move to that next step, Anne Bousquet really became pivotal, whether or not she saw it coming.

Labid Al Ameri

As a young woman, Anne went to the University of Toulouse, where she earned a BA in Economics. She continued on to earn a Master’s Degree in Applied Economics. This was at St. Cloud State University, in Minnesota. She then moved to Boston, where she met her future husband Labid Al Ameri. Their relationship flourished, taking them to Brussels for work.

When they traveled together to Tupungato, Argentina, they saw the work ahead of them… How to sell Jean Bousquet’s wine, now that it was ready. There’s an intriguing components between Anne having studied Applied Economics, and Libid being an international equities trader, at the time. This has created a dynamic powerhouse, that has a brilliant approach their business acumen… It’s so non-traditionally that it’s not anywhere near the box. This has allowed them to successfully exploded their growth potential. Today wine sales are booming, and the wines are all so delicious.

Guillaume Bousquet

Anne Bousquet’s brother Guillaume Bousquet is also active in the family. From his biography:

Guillaume is responsible for the European market of Domaine Bousquet. Born and raised in a family vineyard, Guillaume holds a Masters in Marketing from IEA, University of Toulouse, France. He assists in the development of the annual marketing plan for the winery. After two years of managing sales in Europe, he traveled to the USA for three years, to establish a sales and marketing plan. In 2015, he returned to France to manage the European market.


Anne also brought a French/Spanish sensory flavor to her wines. As her story unfolded, Ann talked easily about her father, who – against everyone’s wishes – when to Argentina and chose new terroir to begin anew. No one understood what he was wanting to do, though. People couldn’t believe where he was willing relocate his family. And yet, a dream shift is a dream come true… Legacy with terroir… The Bousquet Family



Today, the wines decry their soul: high desert, back drop of the dramatic, white-snowcapped Andes, lining the base at the foot of the mountains… Seemingly rugged, but more determined. Each of the following wines were sensational. Perfectly balanced, true to character, with a bit of vibrancy and enjoyability that make me crave still more. Fortunate to take the six samples home; my husband and I enjoyed them with many more meals for a few days. I highly recommend each of their wines… So much integrity, purpose, and connection to their terroir. And, their value exceeds your wildest expectations.

  • Domaine Bousquet Sparkling Pinot Noir * Chardonnay Brut Rose, organic grapes, Mendoza Argentina Non-Vintage
  • Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec 2017, organic grapes, Tupungato UCO Valley, Mendoza Argentina
  • Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc 2018
  • Gaia Domaine Bousquet Tupungato Red Blend 2018
  • Domaine Bousquet Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot Noir
  • AMERI Domaine Bousquet Tupungato

PHOTO by logia: Medieval walls of the castle of Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, just for regional reference of Jean Bousquet’s origin.


JEAN BOUSQUET: My Bousquet family comes from Carcassonne, a city of in the South of France. We have four generations of winemaking history. Our passion is to produce wines of superior quality and this is what lead us to Argentina to begin a new chapter in the tradition of our wine making.



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LuxeSF has announced it’s Rising Wine Star Award recipients

LuxeSF, formerly the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco, has announced its Rising Wine Stars Award recipients for 2019. The ceremony was held during their Seventh Annual Wineries Boot Camp, at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. This was in the presence of over 300 wine industry marketing, sales and hospitality influentials, representing more than 100 Napa and Sonoma wineries and wine-related organizations.

LuxeSF believes that performance and success-in-the-making should be recognized. That’s why the Rising Wine Stars awards now in their third year, have been established—to identify and acknowledge the up-and-coming industry performers who epitomize the new generation changing the face of the wine industry in California, specifically Napa and Sonoma.

[Images of event from LuxeSF]

There was no fee or other monetary consideration required for nomination, and the selection process was agnostic with respect to age, length of service, size of winery or organization represented. The selection criteria remained flexible to the extent that the awardees were chosen based on their current reputation and level of success, but equally so for the potential that they exhibit as future industry leaders and innovators.

A 13-person panel of impartial experts knowledgeable about the various sectors of the wine industry was assembled. These experts knew the inner workings of the business and were not the types to be easily swayed by gossip or headline. They made their selections from 97 candidates across six categories, and hours were spent in vigorous discussion, rigorous dissection and unvarnished assessment. In every selection, the majority vote prevailed.

[PHOTO, property of LuxeSF: Ron Rubin receiving his award from last year’s honoree Monica Stevens, of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, who also has received the Service to the Community award.]

The six awards that were bestowed were:
1. Winery of the Year
2. Winemaker of the Year
3. Wine Marketer of the Year
4. Hospitality & Guest Relations
5. Service to the Community
6. Industry Innovation

“Winery of the Year”
Mike Davis, Davis Estates

Accepting the award: Mike Davis, Co-proprietor Presenting the award: Last year’s honoree of this award, Ed Feuchuk, President, Tank Garage Winery

“Winemaker of the Year”
Julien Fayard

Presenting the Award…2018 Rising Star Winery of the Year honoree, Jason Chang, Proprietor, NINE SUNS

“Marketer of the Year”
John Truchard, JaM Cellars

Presenting the award: Paul Reulbach, Group Publisher, Modern Luxury

“Hospitality and Guest Relations”
Tanner Sneed, David Arthur Vineyards

Presenting the award: Heidi Rickerd-Rizzo, Vice President/Principal, Terra Firma Global Partners

“Community Service Award”
Ron Rubin, Ron Rubin Winery

Presenting the Award: Last year’s honoree, Monica Stevens, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch

“Industry Innovation Award”
Joe Cirone, LibDib

Presenting the Award: the 2017 Rising Star Marketer of the Year, Adam Ivor, Co-Founder Gliding Eagle


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The Most Embarrassing Side of Wine Travel… Musings

This was the point where I should have taken a bow… Hindsight is always 20/20 vision, right?

So, I’m a guest of Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ In the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche. This day, we were having lunch at family Ristorante in a neighboring town. It was as authentic as it could possibly be. Did I have “American Tourist” written across my forehead in special only-seen-to-Italians ink?

Probably, when I arrived, and by the time I left, I definitely did…

Still, I felt like I belonged. I’ve had more than a few very unusual adventures in life. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that I should be writing a book. (Not sure I have the discipline or desire, yet.) This one falls into my Most Embarrassing Moments chapter.

Our Cast of Characters

Everything imaginable was ordered by our hosts for us, all in Italian, at the restaurant… They don’t have a written menu. In Italian, we were told what the day’s dishes were. We had a choice of about three dishes for each course. Instead of knowing what was being requested, because everything was being ordered in Italian, with its own lyrical style with such sensual emotion (words like “handmade tagliatelli”), that’s what I was listening to.

While we waited, we also had a tasting of Colonnara’s regional wines. Then, antipasto arrived and everyone got right into food and wine pairings. Perfect matches, by the way.

By now, I was really craving a salad, and I think I was the only person doing so… (I’ve read if you order salad first in Italy, you’re labeled as a tourist. So, if I hadn’t been labeled yet, there it was…)

I hadn’t seen so many flashbacks of growing up of with a large family-style meal surrounding me … The rhythm and pace of it were intoxicating. The foods were amazing. We were all sharing communally.

Now, between my entree and dessert, I excused myself to go to the ladies room

This is where it gets real. I have to hand it to Italy, across the central part of this peninsula. Every single toilet flush (I can’t make this any more delicate) looks like this. At first, upon arrival i Italy at Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, I spent about five minutes looking for the flush. I thought this was just more art on the wall. Finally, I gave it a push, and much to my surprise it activated. I was so relieved.

So now, it’s days later. I know what it is, I know what to do. But, in this restaurant, I couldn’t find what I knew it should be. In fact, I couldn’t find any flush at all – except, I did see a chain hanging from the ceiling. I remembered my days when a chain was used for flushing, so I pulled it.

Much to my horror, I could hear an alarm going off in the restaurant. Oh, my, gawd… What had I done. I heard people rushing into the little room that had two stall doors: Signore e signori. Yup, I was in the Signore and I had to say so. Oh, my, gawd. This is not the glamour of travel. This is the American tourist making one more obvious mistake, and it was going to go public, quicker than I wanted.

Outside of the restroom door, leading into that area, there’s a light that goes off, along with the knowledge by the staff that it’s a cry for help, from pulling the chain. Yup, every local in the restaurant knows it’s either a grandmother has gone down or a tourist. (Did it help that I was both?) Bring in the paramedics, this ole gal didn’t know how to flush the toilet. Good baby Jesus, I was nailed.

So, my helpful signori couldn’t find the flush pad either. We looked and looked – this was evidently his first foray into the ladies’ room. Then, he moved the curtain to the right, and there it was, hiding under the curtain. Who would think to look behind a curtain for a flush? As an adult, have you ever had anyone help you flush your own toilet? Could it be any more embarrassing?

Why was it hidden in this wonderful restaurant? Because EVERYONE in this tiny town has been going to this restaurant for generations. Parents and grandparents have been teaching customs to their children for years. Bring in a tourist and it’s either going to be a real emergency, or – as in my case – it’s just another tourist.

So, when I had to exit my situation… And that door was opened to a waiting audience

That’s when I should have – instead of blushing to high heaven – just taken a bow. I know I would have had a standing ovation, I just know it.

Special thanks to Colonnara Viticultori‘s, , and Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group, for all of my fabulous adventures during my visit in Cupramontana. They, in no way, had anything to do with my own foibles.


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?


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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.



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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.