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Live Like an Italian is published by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois, USA.
“If you discover that wine from a certain nearby region is generally not to your liking, you can take a number of courses of action,” writes wine and lifestyle journalist Rob Frisch. “A normal oenophile would probably just drink wine from another region. A more obsessive/compulsive oenophile might doggedly keep trying wines from that region until she found one that agreed with her palate. But these solutions, in the end, are for amateurs.”
“If you’re a professional, like Alessandro Bindocci, you go to that region, rent a vineyard, and make the wine yourself.”
He’s talking about Mazzoni Barbera, a wine that seemed to impress Rob as much for its bold flavors and bright acidity as for the story behind it.
Wall Street Journal wine editor Lettie Teague recently called Rob’s blog Odd Bacchus one of five blogs she “really clicks with.”
We were thrilled to see Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro had a chance to sit down over dinner with one of the leading wine bloggers in the U.S. today!
This week, Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci snapped this photo of a wild orchid as he was walking through the vineyards at the Tenuta Il Poggione in Montalcino where Mazzoni wines are produced.
Happy mother’s day! Buona festa della mamma!
Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci has been traveling across the U.S., leading guided tastings and wine dinners featuring his family’s wines. He’s also had a chance to meet with some leading wine writers in the U.S., like Rob Frisch, who authors the excellent wine blog Odd Bacchus.
Here’s what Rob had to say about Alessandro’s Mazzoni Pinot Grigio:
A white Super Tuscan… The wine smelled fresh and lively, like a green whiff of spring. On the palate, it exhibited focused and controlled fruit, prickly acids, some aromatic qualities, and a surprisingly lush finish. It was light but complex, and a fine value for the price. Sampled with a white pizza topped with arugula and parmesan, the food-friendly acids kicked into high gear, and the wine became juicier and rounder. A delight.
Image via Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s blog.
Letta received from the president Giorgio Napolitano on 24 April 2013 the task of forming a new government, after weeks of deadlock following the 2013 general election. On 27 April 2013, Letta formally accepted the task of heading a new grand coalition government (with support from his party, right-wing People of Freedom and the centrist Civic Choice) and presented the list of members of his cabinet.
The third youngest Italian to become head of state, Letta became Italy’s first prime minister to appoint an African Italian to a government post when he made Cécile Kyenge his minister of Integration.
Spring in Italy has arrived, and with it, the abundant and beautiful produce that it bears. While so many veggies herald the season, fava beans are synonymous with returning flowers, sun and warmth.
If you were to eat in Italy right now, you might find a plate of lightly blanched favas still in the pods next to a plate of pancetta. There is a unique pleasure in popping the tender green morsels from their pods one by while blessing every other bite with the savory, fatty salt of a great pancetta. It is a divine combination of sweet, verdant and innocent vegetable consumed with the hedonistic and unctuous pleasure of lard. Similar to shelling peanuts one by one or working your way through a platter of crab legs, eating favas in this way is a very convivial ritual.
You might also see favas in a salad tossed with thinly shaved sheep’s milk cheese, or stewed with peas and artichokes. Europeans have been wise to the abundant nutritional contribution of favas for millennia, but Americans are finally becoming aware of this culinary star and the bean’s availability stateside is increasing, thanks to our fervent Italophilia.
Look for the beans, usually found in their long pods at your local grocer and enjoy spring like an Italian.
Here are some of the fun prizes you can win:
We’ve written about “false cognates” (also known as “false friend”) here before.
One of the most common false cognates — words or expressions that have often comically different meanings in Italian and English — is pepperoni pizza.
If you order a pep[p]eroni pizza in Italy, the pizzaiolo will make you a pizza topped with bell peppers (peperoni in Italian).
If you want a pizza like the one above (akin to the American pepperoni, made with salty and sometimes spicy dried sausage, thinly sliced), you need to order a pizza alla diavola, a devil’s style pizza, a name owed to the fact that spicier sausage is generally used in Italy for this type of pizza.
One of the hottest tables in the United States today, Via Tribunali is named after one of the oldest streets in the historic center of Naples, Italy.
“We opened our first pizzeria in 2004,” write the owners on their website, “in the burgeoning Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. For months before we opened curious onlookers poked their heads in the former auto body shop, and outlandish rumors spread quickly throughout Seattle. One person saw a team of masons reportedly flown in from Naples to build a gargantuan wood-fired oven, someone heard that the bricks also came from Naples rich with Vesuvian ash, a reporter ran a story about a taxi driver leading our owner down a dark Neapolitan street to meet a talented pizzaiolo who was then whisked to an airport… As it turns out almost all of the tall tales are true.”
Today, the pizza at Via Tribunali (see photo above) is considered to be among the most authentic verace pizza napoletana in America.
We are proud to announce that Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci, of the Tenuta Il Poggione (Montalcino, Tuscany) will be honored at two events to be held at the restaurant’s Capitol Hill (Seattle) location Tuesday April 30 and Georgetown (Seattle) location on Wednesday May 1.
Please email general manager Travis to reserve for the Tuesday event in Capitol Hill.
Or please email general manager Faith to reserve for the Wednesday event in Georgetown.
Both events include a five-course dinner and tasting of six wines with Alessandro.
Space is limited. $58 per person.
Here’s the latest, just in from the Tenuta Il Poggione in Montalcino, Tuscany, where Mazzoni wines are made:
Finally it feels like spring has arrived in Montalcino as well.
The temperatures are rising and today we have had the minimum temperature at 8° C. and the maximum at 18° C. and there are the forecasts of fair weather for at least seven other days.
The vines are opening their buds (see photo above) and we were are in line with the previous years.
Today, the world of wine mourns the loss of Franco Biondi Santi, one of the greatest producers of Brunello di Montalcino. The following is a translation of a press release issued by the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino, including a remembrance by consortium president Fabrizio Bindocci, winemaker at the Tenuta Il Poggione where Mazzoni wines are produced.
“One of the greatest symbols of Italian wine’s quality and excellence in the world has passed away. Without a doubt, he was one of the most important architects of the success of Brunello di Montalino on an international level. Thanks to him, Brunello is one of the best known and most appreciated made-in-Italy brands. With his passing, the Consortium and the entire appellation not only lose a great producer but also a very great man who was known for his profound sensibility and humanity. We owe a great deal to him and we are sure that his example and his ability will be carried forward by those who will succeed him in his leadership at the winery. The next time that the Council meets, it will consider potential initiatives to honor his memory in the best way possible.”
These were the words with which the President of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino Fabrizio Bindoci remembered Franco Biondi Santi, who had led the Tenuta Greppo di Montalcino since the 1970s.
The Mayor of Montalcino, Silvio Franceshelli, also shared his condolences with the Biondi Santi family and added: “I am profoundly saddened by the passing of a figure who gave a great deal to this land. It is thanks to him that Montalcino is so well known throughout the world and at such a high level. He was a man who enriched Montalcino and we will forever be grateful.”
In 1934, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry recognized Franco Biondi Santi’s grandfather Ferruccio as the “inventor of Brunello.” In 1994, Decanter awarded 10/10 (a perfect score) to the 1891, a wine that was 103 years old at the time. In 1999, Wine Spectator rated the 1955 Riserva as one of the “best twelve wines produced in the world in the twentieth century.”
Asparagus season is officially underway in Italy!
It generally begins at the end of March and lasts through May.
One of the most popular ways to serve asparagus is with crumbled hard-boiled egg (as in the photo above).
But you will also find asparagus tossed with pasta or folded into creamy risotto.
Above: A bee feasts on the blossoming flowers of a rosemary bush. Easter and the arrival of spring are a time of renewal and rebirth.
In many ways, Easter is a “bigger” holiday in Italy than Christmas is.
Indeed, until the time of the Napoleonic conquest, many Italian city states observed and celebrated the new year at Easter and not the week after Christmas as they do now.
Above: A wild rosemary bush in Puglia.
Easter and the official arrival of spring are a time of renewal and rebirth. And while many Italian families certainly will gather for Christmas celebrations in December in their hometowns, Easter is the yearly holiday that nearly all families will celebrate together.
And no Easter celebration is complete without roast “Paschal” lamb that has been seasoned with rosemary, a traditional spice used in Italy — especially southern Italy — for lamb.
Happy Easter to you and your family from the family at the Live Like an Italian blog.
We’ll see you next week. Buona pasqua…
Last week, Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci, posted this beautiful image of a Tuscan rainbow on his blog Montalcino Report.
The photo was taken at the entrance of the Tenuta Il Poggione winery, where Mazzoni wines are vinified and bottled.
Here’s his post, including an old Tuscan proverb.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ (born December 17, 1936) is the current pope of the Roman Catholic Church, elected on March 13, 2013 and taking the regnal name of Francis. Prior to his election, he served as an Argentine cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He has served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.
Jorge Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, one of the five children of an Italian railway worker and his wife. After studying at the seminary in Villa Devoto, he entered the Society of Jesus on March 11, 1958. Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José in San Miguel, and then taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada in Santa Fe, and the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 13, 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, a seminary in San Miguel. Bergoglio attained the position of novice master there and became professor of theology.
International Women’s Day — Giornata della Donna or Festa della Donna in Italian — is celebrated every year in March 8.
The festival originated in the early twentieth century as a means to promote awareness of universal suffrage. To this day, it reminds us of an era when women were denied the rights enjoyed by men. And it celebrates the contributions of women everywhere to the betterment of the world.
In Italy, the custom of giving women a mimosa flower on Women’s Day began in 1946, the year after the Second World War ended — a tradition unique to Italy.
While it may seem insignificant today, the gesture had powerful meaning in the years following the war. Italy had been devastated by the conflict, left in ruins by the retreating Nazis who had occupied Italy since 1943 when the Allies landed in the south. It was a time when even the wealthy knew the pangs of hunger.
At the time, the beautiful mimosa — which blossoms in its rich yellow at the beginning of March — brought a glimmer of joy and hope to Italians — men and women alike.
To this day, March 8 is celebrated by the exchange of the mimosa.
From the Wikipedia entry for Women’s Day (March 8):
International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and St Valentine’s Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.
Don’t get us wrong: we have nothing against Parmigiano Reggiano, the classic grating cheese that can only be produced in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna.
We love topping our ragù alla bolognese or our lasagne alla bolognese with an extra helping of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
And we love eggplant layered with Parmigiano Reggiano, a dish that combines one of the great food products of the north with one of the staples of southern Italian cuisine.
But when it comes to the winter soups of Tuscany, like ribollita, the “twice cooked” bread soup (made with stale bread, Swiss chard, and cannellini beans), we have to insist that the dish be finished with a generous drizzle of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. Anything else would be sacrilege!
Let’s face it: while big cities in the U.S. like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago have been experiencing an “Italian wine renaissance” for nearly two decades now, there are still many smaller cities where Americans’ unbridled passion for Italian wine and its mosaic of grape varieties has yet to arrive.
That’s just one of the reasons we were so impressed with the truly superb wine list curated by Riccardo Tarabelsi (above), a native of Florence, Italy who grew up in Boston and ultimately settled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (population 156,592 according to Google, 2011).
Riccardo is the general manager and wine director at the immensely popular Italian restaurant Spezia (pronounced speh-TZEE-ah), one of the town’s top fine dining destinations.
“I have to be honest,” said Riccardo when we spoke to him yesterday by phone. “Many of our guests say to me, ‘don’t bring me the wine list. Just give me a Chardonnay.’”
“So I ask them, ‘would you like a Chardonnay from California or a Chardonnay from Italy?”
And that’s when Riccardo does his magic.
“They’ll ask me: ‘You mean, they make Chardonnay in Italy?’ And I like that because it lets me share my passion for Italian wine with them.”
Riccardo’s list has something for everyone, from the casual Pinot Grigio drinker to the heavy-hitting Brunello lover. And its aggressive pricing extends from the by-the-glass program to his top-priced Amarone, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco.
But the thing we loved the most about his list is that he includes food pairings in the list itself.
“When you go to a region of Italy,” he explained, “you drink the wine that was meant to go with the food of the region. That’s the only wine they serve. But in America, the guest needs some guidance in how to pair the wine,” especially at a restaurant like Spezia, where the chef features regional foods from all over Italy.
Currently, Riccardo is featuring a “wine flight” of Mazzoni Pinot Grigio, Mazzoni Barbera, and Mazzoni Toscana Rosso.
“I love them all but my favorite,” said Riccardo, “is the Toscana Rosso, a classic Super Tuscan, with great acidity and a dry finish… the things that I look for” in great red wine.
Beyond being the wine director and GM at one of the hottest tables in town, Riccardo also authors a column for a local lifestyle magazine, etc. (click the link to read his most current article, a profile of Italy’s Cinque Terre).
We don’t have any plans to visit Sioux Falls in the near future but it might be worthwhile just to taste with Riccardo!
This week, syndicated US wine writer John Foy profiles Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci (below) and the Tenuta Il Poggione where Mazzoni wines are produced…
Brunello di Montalcino has gone through a sea change since the 1970s, but one of the anchors of this area and its wine is Il Poggione.
In the late 1800s, Florentine landowner Lavinio Franceschi trekked from his estate to the distant hills of the Montalcino area south of Siena. He wanted to see the land where his Shepard moved the flock of sheep for their regular winter stay, singing praises of the area’s beauty. After seeing it for himself, Franceschi purchased land in 1890 in Sant’Angelo in Colle, part of the Montalcino community.
Today, the property, named Il Poggione, is in the hands of Franceschi’s great-grandchildren Leopoldo and Livia Franceschi. They continue the mixed agriculture of vineyards, crops and animal-raising started more than a century ago by their adventurous and enterprising ancestor.
The region’s wine, Brunello di Montalcino has undergone a profound transformation. What was a locally consumed rustic red wine is now an internationally acclaimed wine of various styles. Some producers make New World-styled brunellos using overripe fruit and designer flavored yeasts, aging all the wine in new French oak barrels, and other winemaking tricks. Other wineries, such as Il Poggione, use modern technology but restrain the winemaking manipulation. They offer clean, fresh brunello di Montalcino that holds its heritage high.
Winemaker Alessandro Bindocci, 32, visited New York two weeks ago with his latest Il Poggione wines. Bindocci is following in the footsteps of his father, Fabrizio, who began his career at Il Poggione in 1976 as the assistant winemaker, and progressed to winemaker and director.
The most common type of radicchio worldwide is the variety called Chioggia, but in the Veneto, Radicchio Trevigiano proudly rules the table.
With its storied past, radicchio has been part of the Italian diet since the times of Pliny the Elder. Prized for its nutritional properties and pleasantly bitter bite, it adds a kick, not to mention a pop of color to any menu.
There are two types of the variety particular to Treviso: precoce, and tardivo. Precoce, or early radicchio, is long and slender with leaves of even width. The tardivo, or late-ripening radicchio, boasts the famous finger-like leaves and has a more pronounced flavor. Resembling a wine-stained flower, this head of
lettuce chicory is anything but ordinary.
Radicchio Trevigiano is available starting in the late fall and produces throughout winter.
The bitter flavor is attributed to a chemical called intybin, which is known to stimulate the appetite and help purify the liver.
There are so many ways to prepare this versatile vegetable. In addition to its obvious use in salad, radicchio is delicious simply grilled with olive oil, sautéed and added to risotto, or braised until tender. The opportunity for creativity endless and any effort made to locate this culinary star is handsomely rewarded at any table.
There’s an ancient bridge in Rome that spans the Tiber river called the Ponte Milvio.
A few years ago, young lovers began to attach locks to the lamp posts of the bridge: they’d engrave their names and their declarations of eternal love on the little locks, attach them to the lamp posts, and then toss the key into the water below.
At a certain point, the weight of the locks became so heavy that the lamp post broke and fell into the river!
When the mayor of Rome heard of this, what did he do? Did he send the police to prevent the young lovers from sealing their devotion to one another? Did he block access to the bridge to stop them?
No, he had city engineers install poles on the bridge especially so that the young people could continue to attach their declarations of love.
Italy is for lovers: it’s a country where love and passion are held in high regard, a nation where affection and expressions of desire are considered noble and commendable.
Buon giorno di San Valentino a tutti! Happy Valentine’s Day to all!
Image via Wikipedia.
But as bothersome as the snow and rain can be, he says, they are good for the vines.
Emilio Pucci, the darling designer of the 1960s icons such as Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, lived a charmed life and nurtured a successful career in the international fashion industry.
Born into Florentine nobility in 1914, Emilio Pucci lived a life of privilege from the very beginning. An avid skiier, Pucci was awarded a scholarship to Reed College in Oregon, which would later provide him with one of his first prefessional design opportunities.
Shortly after World War II, while skiing in Switzerland, a photographer from Harper’s Bazaar asked Emilio to design a line of ski wear for a winter edition of the magazine. His use of fitted, stretchy fabrics caused an immediate sensation.
The international jet-set quickly became fans of Pucci’s designs while passing through the resort island, where he lived. This caught the attention of such famous stores as Neiman Marcus, whose owner encouraged him to expand his line from bikinis and scarves to blouses and beyond. His fame in America was solidified and his brightly-colored, geometric patterns became ubiquitous among the fashion savvy.
Pucci was commissioned to design uniforms for Braniff Airlines and he even designed a logo for the Apollo 15 space mission.
His marriage to Baronessa Cristina Nannini produced a daughter, Laudomia, who would design for the label after Pucci’s death in 1992. Luxury giant Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy bought a controlling stake in the company 2000 and began to bring in famous designers to create for the label such as Christian Lacroix.
The recognizable swirls and angles of Pucci’s prints remain a staple of high fashion and wardrobes of the jet-set today. They have achieved a classic status in the fickle fashion industry, a significant accomplishment by any measure.
Image via Wikipedia.
Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci (above) visited Houston and New York this week.
He was in the U.S. to pour the new vintage of his family’s Brunello di Montalcino at the annual preview of the wines, Benvenuto Brunello, which takes place in Montalcino, New York, and one other American city every year.