Sipping with Sebastian Nasello, Podere le Ripi, Montalcino


Founded in the 1990s by Francesco Illy, a member of the renowned Illy Coffee family. Podere le Ripi is a rising star in the world of Brunello di Montalcino wines. With its winery facility located in the desirable Southeastern quadrant of Montalcino, Podere Le Ripi sources grapes from vineyards it owns throughout the appellation.

Sebastian Nasello is the CEO and winemaker here, and crafts his Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines with an eye towards biodynamic farming their vineyards and using minimal intervention in the cellar.

“Podere Le Ripi was started on an old sheep farm with the goal of creating a fully sustainable ecosystem for our vineyards and wine,” says Nasello, a Tuscan native who has been making the wines at Podere Le Ripi since 2011, “and all our decisions in the vineyard are made with the utmost care and attention to putting vine health first,” he adds.

The winemaking region of Montalcino is made up of four vineyard areas all surrounding the central hill upon which the village Montalcino sits, and each has its own unique terroir that it brings to the grapes. When Speaking of their vineyards locations, most producers narrow it down to East and West.

Overview of Podere Le Ripi
Overview of Podere Le Ripi

Vineyards of the Eastern slope are generally warmer and more dry with primarily sedimentary clay soils, while the vineyards of the Western side, which is more wild and untamed by agriculture over the centuries, tends to be slightly cooler with stony alluvial soils. “Sangiovese is a very shy variety with a great sense of place,” says Nasello, “so in order to understand Brunello, we must first understand where the Sangiovese that it is made with grows, as different vineyards present different flavor profiles when the wine is made.”

Podere Le Ripi makes wines across the spectrum of defined allowable wines as specified by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, Brunello’s governing body, including IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello and Riserva Brunello wines.

Podere Le Ripi team

When growing seasons are exceptional, Nasello and his team also make a small production single vineyard-designated Brunello called Ciello d’Ulisse. Cielo d’Ulisse, is a 100% Sangiovese (as is all Brunello di Montalcino) from a vineyard of the same name carved from the heavily forested far Western side of Montalcino’s designated growing area. “Afternoon sun, poor soils and the dry climate of the Ciello d’Ulisse site create the perfect terroir in which to cultivate Sangiovese of top quality,” says Nasello, “and the Ciello d’Ulisse Brunello is made from a small percentage of the best hand-picked grapes from that vineyard,” he adds.

For more on Podere Le Ripi and its wines visit

What we tasted:

Cielo d'Ulisse

Podere Le Ripi offers guided tours and tastings at the winery.Ciello d’Ulisse Brunello di Montalcino 2016: This 100% Sangiovese stunner is Podere Le Ripi’s flagship bottling from the 5-Star rated 2016 vintage, arguably the best vintage in Montalcino since the legendary 1997. Fermented in open-top containers and aged in oak for 33 months in oak followed by an additional 12 months in Cement tanks prior to bottling, this wine was then bottle-aged 2 years before release. Black and red fruit wrapped in savory and floral notes typical of Sangiovese. Deeply colored and full bodied with great acidity on the palate, this wine is well structured, lively and fresh. A wine to cellar and cherish down the road. U.S. Importer: Dark Star Imports.

Listen to our conversation with Sebastian Nasello on The Connected Table SIPS.


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Chianti Colli Fiorentini: Exploring Wines from the Outskirts of Florence

When heading to Tuscany to visit its wineries, most travelers head out of Florence and drive for a while to get to the most famous regions, like Montalcino and Montepulciano. But did you know that great wine, particularly Chianti, is made right outside the city in the surrounding hills?

Chianti Colli Fiorentini is one of a number of regions for chianti production and has been classified since the 1930s, making it one of the earliest to be officially recognized. It is also the only DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Italy’s highest quality designation) classified region for Chianti production that can include “Firenze” (Italian for Florence) on the label. As such, the wines from Colli Fiorentini are very popular in Florence itself, and are a source of pride among locals.

Like in many areas of Tuscany, grapes have been grown in Colli Fiorentini for a long time, and wines from the region have a reputation for being approachable and drinkable fairly early after release. Now, thanks to a new generation of owners who are working to increase awareness and extend their reach in the marketplace, The wines for Chianti Colli Fiorentini are starting to gain a reputation outside the region, as well.

Vineyards at Chianti Colli Fiorentini just after harvest in 2018

The Connected Table recently spent time in Colli Fiorentini visiting a number of producers, both large and small. We were thrilled by the wines we tried, and also by the people we met, who are warm and inviting to oeno-tourists. In fact, oeno-tourism is a big part of their livelihood, and almost all the wineries we visited were also “agriturismo” (Italian for Bed & Breakfast) properties, so overnight stays are also possible.

While some white wines are produced (mostly from Trebbiano and Malvasia), including a number of excellent Vin Santo wines (sweet dessert-style wines made from grapes that have been hung to dry and concentrate their sugars before being pressed), most wines are reds made from Sangiovese with other grapes like Canaiolo & Colorino blended in depending on winemaker preference.

The following is a list of wineries we visited and found made exceptional wines:

Diletta Malenchini, Malenchini Winery

Malanchini. ( ) Owned by the Malanchini family since the 1830s and run by Diletta Malenchini. The family also operates an Agriturismo on property and hosts weddings in season. Wines to look for include Chianti and  Chianti Riserva which is made from 100% Sangiovese.

Le Querce wines

La Querce. ( ). Located in Impruneta, La Querce’s wines are made by Marco Ferretti, who is also the current president of the Colli Fiorentini Consorzio of producers. Wines to try include Sorretolle, La Torretta Riserva, La Querce Toscana, and M.

With Camilla Carrega, Volognano (listen to our show with Camilla. Scroll to the end of this post.

Volognano. ( ). A fully restored 11th century castle and adjoining medieval village is the backdrop for Volognano’s wines which are delightfully modern in style. Camilla Carrega, third generation of the current ownership runs the winery and extensive agriturismo. Wines to look for include their Toscana Bianco, a delicious blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia, Noi Chianti CF, Baccante, a Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and their Vin Santo, Aetius.

In the vineyards at Tenuta San Vito

Tenuta San Vito, ( ). Founded in 1960, Tenuta San Vito is 12 miles from Florence and comprises 300 acres with 70 of those dedicated to grapes. They also make some wonderful olive oils and run an agriturismo for overnight stays. Wines include Chianti CF and Chianti CF Riserva, San Vito also makes a delicious Vin Santo aged in Chestnut barrels.

DOP Salumi at Fattoria San Michele

San Michele a Torri. ( ). One of the more established producers in Colli Fiorentini, San Michele has 400 acres with 60 under vine. They also produce olive oils and Cinta Senese DOP salumi from their heritage breed pigs. They make a number of wines and their Chianti CF and CF Riservas are top notch.

Tasting at Quei2

Quei 2. ( Certainly the smallest producer on this list, and maybe the smallest we’ve ever seen. Quei 2 makes only 6000 bottle per year from grapes grown in 50 year old vineyards, but the owners, both former engineers with a passion for making wine, are investing both time and resources to secure their future. Wines include Le Casine Bianco, Rex Rubrum Chianti CF, and 208 Rosso, a Sangiovese/Merlot/Canaiolo blend.

La Colombaia Villa di Bagnolo. ( ). A beautifully restored Villa and property owned by the Beltrami family since the 1970s, La Colombaia makes a variety of wines including Chianti and Vin Santo. The property is also available for private events. Their Terre delle Fornaci was a favorite.

Marco Bartollini and his sister

Fattoria di Bagnolo. ( ) Located directly across the vineyard from La Colombaia, this winery is one of three multi-use properties in Tuscany owned by the Marchesi Bartolini Bardelli family and is their premium wine estate. Marco Bartolini led the winemaking for the last 30 years, and recently passed oversight to his sister. Their Chianti CF wines are made from traditional Tuscan varieties like Sangiovese and Colorino, They also make a Super Tuscan called Caprorosso, which is very good.

At Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio. ( Founded in 1962 by the Rocchi family, Castelvecchio is run by brother and sister Filippo and Stefania Rocchi and produces about 100,000 bottles annually from its 75 acres of vineyards planted to traditional Tuscan and French grape varieties. Favorites included Il Castelvecchio Chianti CF, Vigna La Quercia Chianti CF riserva, and Numero Otto, a red made from 100% Canaiolo.

Tenuta Il Corno

Tenuta Il Corno. ( A sprawling estate built in the 12th century and once the summer residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Il Corno has been owned  by the Frova family since 1911. Maria Giulia Frova runs the wine program and is nicknamed the “Queen of Colorino” due her affinity for, and expertise in coaxing Colorino to life in the bottle. “Corno Divino” is a wonderful restaurant on property, and accommodations are also available.

Ugo Bing and his son

Fattoria de Fiano. ( Winemaker Ugo Bing’s family has been growing grapes on their property since the 1940s and make some deliciously interesting wines form their panoramic hill-top vineyards, including some from grapes not widely planted in the region like Petit Manseng and Abrostino (only planted by about five producers). Wines include Chianti CF, Fianesco (their Super Tuscan), Pugni d’Abrusco (a red blend of Pugnitello and Agrostino) and Vin Santo.

Wines at Le Torri

Le Torri. ( ). Milan native Beatrice Mozzi runs this agriturismo and winery for her family, and winemakers Giovanni Sordi & Alessandro Maffi make some beautiful wines, including Chianti CF and CF Riserva. Other projects include a delightful Brut Rose sparkling wine (great to sip by the property’s pool while staying the weekend), Soleluna Chardonnay, and Magliano Super Tuscan.

Fattorie Gianozzi

Fattorie Giannozzi. ( An historic winery owned by the Giannozzi family since the early 1700s. Gianozzi was one of the first chianti producers to export to the U.S. (in the 1930s) and are well established in the U.S. market. Brothers Luca and Simone Giannozzi run the wine, olive oil, and agriturismo.

Wines of Gualandi. Listen to our show with Guido Gualandi on The Connected Table LIVE

Gualandi. ( By far the most unique of Tuscany’s wineries. Guido Gualandi’s passion for making wine extends from his passion for history and most importantly, historical winemaking methods and ancient grapes. An archeologist & teaching professor specializing in Mesopotamia, Guido actually researches how winemaking was done in ancient times and re-creates the process to make his wines. He eschews modern winemaking techniques and seeks out and revives forgotten grape varieties. His website states “archeologial wines” are the focus, but we like to call his phenominal wines “Super-Etruscans.” Wines include Montebetti Chianti CF, Gualandvs, and a beautiful Vin Santo.

Wines at Valvirginio

Valvirginio. ( Valvirginio is produced by the local cooperative winery Cantine Sociale Colli Fiorentini which is owned by about 850 small grape growers in the area.  The Cantine also operates a half dozen Valvirginio retail stores around Tuscany to sell its products which include wine, olive oil, and honey. Collorosso is their Chianti Colli Fiorentini wine.

View from Castello Poppiano

Castello di Poppiano  ( ) The Guicciardini family has been making wine at Castello di Poppiano since 1199A.D. Conte (Count) Ferdinando Guicciardini runs the show and also owns two other wineries in Tuscany which he constantly shuffles back and forth between while overseeing production. Castello di Poppiano is Chianti Colli Fiorentini’s largest producer and Ferdinando was instrumental in gaining the region DOCG status in the 1980s. His wines are well distributed, and he can often be found at the estate, always willing to spend time with guests and tell the history of the beautiful castle he and his wife Annamaria calls home.

another stunning view


Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Guido Gualandi, Gualandi


Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Camilla Carrega, Volognano



Life of the Party- A Pinot Grigio with Personality

Selecting wine for a party is like inviting the ideal guest: You want someone fun with an easy-going personality who helps bring the party to life and keeps the conversation going without dominating the group.

Wine is the same way. As a host, you want to serve a wine that appeals to even your pickiest guests, works with the different dishes being served and is agreeable on the palate. You want it to be tasteful  and within your budget. You want something under $15 that is a quality wine with an attractive and not-too-kitschy label that looks nice on the table or bar.

© Catalina Zaharescu Tiensuu |

For many hosts that wine is Pinot Grigio. It complements many foods without overpowering. It appeals to people who prefer a white wine that’s refreshing and fruity and not overly oaked. Maybe that’s why Pinot Grigio is a popular house wine at bars and restaurants, as well as a go-to wine for at-home entertaining. It’s likeable without being intimidating.

So, why do some people still turn up their noses to Pinot Grigio when it’s one of the top-selling white wines? It’s probably because Pinot Grigio became a victim of its own success. As more people consumed this easy-to-drink white wine, more producers rushed to make larger volume wines to seize the opportunity to sell more bottles. Quantity overtook quality. There was more mass and less class to the wines.

Maybe you are rolling your eyes as you read this because you think you are not a Pinot Grigio drinker. Maybe you’ve tried a few that just tasted unremarkable with no sense of place. Perhaps some were too fruity or a tad astringent. Maybe you felt it was time to graduate to another grape.

PInot Grigio grapes on vine ©Chiyacat

But, remember this…..

Pinot Grigio is grown around the world and there are different styles. It’s like Chardonnay and Merlot. Some scoff at these wines because they’ve tried wines from specific production areas that may not appeal to their personal taste. Yet, Chardonnay is the main grape in France’s prized Burgundy white wines, and Merlot is one of the noble red grapes used to make Bordeaux wines. Scoff no more!

The same goes for Pinot Grigio. Why knock an entire category of wine just because you’ve tasted a few that did not suit your palate? What’s important is to think about where the grapes are cultivated and how the wine is made.

Like all good wine, it starts with a sense of place.  Italy is the best-known producer of Pinot Grigio. The country practically put this wine on the world map, and it produced Pinot Grigio in several areas.

If your preference is for a soft, fruity style of Pinot Grigio with crisp acidity and minerality, look to wines made in Trentino- Alto Adige, located south of the Austrian border. Frequently referred to as simply “Alto Adige,”another local name for this area is Süditrol,(a.k.a. “south of Tyrol”). This is a nod to the region’s Germanic heritage. A critical passageway on the early trade routes between Italy and the rest ofEurope, Alto Adige was under the Austro-Hungarian empire for a long time until itwas annexed by Italy after World War I. Even today, residents speak a dialectthat blends Italian, German and Ladin (a traditional vernacular of the local mountain dwellers).

Alto Adige at Dusk

Alto Adige is a visually stunning area. Steep, craggy peaks of the snow-capped Dolomite Mountains frame rolling hills dotted with farms, vineyards and apple orchards. While AltoAdige produces its fair share of red wines, those made with the local Schiava and Lagrein varieties, the white wines are the standouts, notably Pinot Grigio. 

Some of Italy’s Best Pinot Grigio is made in Alto Adige 

Pinot Grigio wines from Alto Adige have ripe stone fruit and delicate floral notes that deliver a pleasant mouth-popping acidity. One reason is the favorable growing conditions which combine warm sunny days, chilly nights and nutrient-rich glacial soil (also referred to as morainic).

Val Lagarina Vineyards

An example is Lagaria Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie made in Val Lagarina, a small valley tucked between the Dolomites and Lake Garda. Lagaria’s vineyards are located between 600 and 1600 feet above sea level. The higher altitude and brisk winds from the nearby mountains bring pure, cool air to nurture the vines. The vineyards face south, allowing grapes to ripen in just enough sunlight to bring out their lush fruit, and are planted in gravelly soil which helps retain heat from the sun and soak in rain water. The gravely volcanic soil contains sediment and fossils to enrich the vines. 

The perfect combination of sun, wind and soil provide an ideally balanced microclimate forgrowing the grapes. Of course, mindful of sustainability, Lagaria’s winemakingteam employs renewable energy in every phase of production.

Lagaria’s winemaker is Franco Bernabei, one of Italy’s most respected consulting oenologists. Bernabi’s approach to making Lagaria is to allow the wine to have prolonged contact on the lees well into the early spring after harvest and just before bottling. This crucial step creates a soft complexity that other styles of Pinot Grigios may lack.

© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime

This is why anyone who usually says “No” to Pinot Grigio, may have a second opinion once they taste Lagaria. This pale, straw-colored wine delivers a pleasant kiss of apple, apricot and pear aromas and doesn’t smack your palate with heavy fruit.  With just a few sips, you’re dreaming about gathering with friends after a day on the ski slopes or sunning at the beach.

Lagaria Pinot Grigio Belle Venezie is a versatile wine that pairs with everything from pizzas and salads, to light pasta dishes and raw or cooked seafood, even southern-fried chicken. At $11 a bottle, it’s the ideal reception wine when you need an agreeable well-priced white wine to serve to a group.

Lagaria wine is imported by Empson USA.

Lagaria’s chic label is designed by one of Italy’s top illustrators, Stefano Riboli. Look for the bella donna (beautiful woman) perched on a Vespa. Perched on your table, she’s a conversation opener and an Instagram photo opp even before you pop the screwtop.

You simply can’t go wrong with the right Pinot Grigio for any occasion. Give it a try!

A white wine for any occasion. ©-Karin-Hildebrand-Lau-Dreamstime.




TCT- Sips! brought to you by Lagaria 

Drink Explore

Everything is Coming Up Vermentino in Sardegna

The wisp of a fresh sea breeze and the soft scent of wildflowers and Mediterranean brush remind me of a recent trip to Sardegna just before summer crowds of tourists flooded the island and just in time to taste some newly released wines. My trip was an immersion experience to learn about Vermentino, a light-skinned white grape that produces vibrant citrusy high-acid wines that make you salivate for a plate of fresh shellfish or just-caught, lightly grilled branzino with fresh herbs.

Vermentino grapes. Photo courtesy of LAORE

Vermentino is also cultivated in Corsica, where it’s called Vermentinu and in parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, where it’s called Rolle. In Liguria, it’s known as Pigato, and in Piedmont, it’s called Favorita. In Hungary it is related to Furmint. Recently I even tasted a Vermentino from Australia.

Seventy percent of Italy’s Vermentino is from Sardegna, where its production is strictly regulated to assure the highest quality wines. The characteristics of Vermentino wines vary slightly by appellation, thanks to different soils and vineyard elevations. All the wines I tasted reminded me somewhat of a Loire Valley Sancerre but with a tad more, albeit pleasant, salinity.

Hills of vineyards at Siddura Winery in DOCG Vermentino di Gallura

Vermentino is cultivated throughout Sardegna, but the wines of Vermentino de Gallura DOCG in the region of Olbia to the north of the island are considered the jewels in the crown. Here, the soil is more granite and limestone which lends a flinty character to the wines.

Overlooking the vineyards at Auduraya Winery in DOC Vermentino di Gallura in Southern Sardinia

To the south in Vermentino di Sardegna DOC the soils are more calcareous (clay, chalk) . Tasting these wines, I detected a much more floral and herbaceous character, much like the Mediterranean wildflowers I kept smelling throughout my trip.

The Vermentino wines had a lovely essence of wildflowers and herbs like this wild fennel

Vermentino wines should be served chilled, but not too cold. Given their Mediterranean provenance, they pair beautifully with seafood. Fatty tuna, octopus, langoustines and sea bream are just a few of the seafood dishes I enjoyed during my stay in Cagliari.

Fresh from the sea and perfect with a glass of chilled Vermentino

A special thank you to the agriculture marketing agency LAORE, who organized the trip. We all had the chance to taste a range of wines Vermentino wines from the north (Gallura and Alghero) and to the south around Cagliari, a bustling seaport and popular tourist destination. We met with dozens of producers at organizing tastings and meals. I found their local pride was as captivating as the wines.

Three generations of the Auduraya family at Auduraya Winery

Sadly, there was not enough time to visit Sardegna’s world-classes beaches and take a dip in the sea or tour its many archeological ruins (we did visit one). That’s another trip, and I look forward to returning and exploring this beautiful island more extensively.

This is the closest I came to the sea. the view was stunning!

Meanwhile, I will savor the memory of the sea breeze, sun and wildflowers when I order a glass of Vermentino.

Spiral pasta fusilli with tuna fish, tomato sauce, olive oil and basil is a typical Mediterranean dish which people eat especially during the summer and hot days. With white wine Vermentino from Sardinia final sensation is fantastic. ©-Loran-Zutic-Dreamstime.com_


In this edition of The Connected Table SIPS! Donatella Muscianese, Agenzia Laore Sardegna, discusses key growing areas and styles of Vermentino: DOCG Vermentino di Gallura.


Recommended wines

Vermentino di Gallura DOCG

Surrau  This winery mays sparkling and still Vermentino. Try Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore which is aged one year, (ID Beverage)

Cantina Tani (Monti, Gallura) Family owned winery. Mother is a chef in the family winery restaurant Try Taerra 2008 (Importer: Artisan Wines)

Tenute Olbios. I really like this winery’s selections, especially the no dosage sparkling Vermentino called Bisso.

Vermentino di Sardinia DOC

Argiolas – Founded by wine legend Antonio Argiolas in 1906, the winery is now run by his granddaughters and celebrates 80 years in 2018. Try Costamolina. (Winebow).

Antonella Corda – Vintner Antonella Corda is a granddaughter of Antonio Argiolas who decided to create her own namesake label.  Try Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna.

Cantina Auduraya -The word “auduraya” means “nobility of the soul.” This lively winery hosted a tasting of delicious local Argiolas cheeses as well as their wines which include other native varieties like Monica, Bovale, Nuragus and, of course Cannonnau and Vermentino. Try: Auduraya Vermentino.

Cantina Santa Maria La Palma – Located in Alghero, this cantina is the largest producer of Vermentino in Sardegna. This winery produces a few Vermentino wines. Its bestseller is Aragosta (“lobster). I was partial to Vermentino Blu. Another interesting wine is Akènta is a sparkling Vermentino that is ‘cellared’ deep in the sea in the Porto Conte Natural Park. (MS Walker Imports and Bacchus Imports).

Sella & Mosca – Sella & Mosca is an expansive winery that produces wines from several native varietals, including a significant amount of Torbato, a white varietal, and Nasco, which produces a sweeter wine. Try: Sella & Mosca Monteoro Vermentino de Gallura Superiore. (Palm Bay Imports)

Cantina Trexenta -All the wines tasted were exceptional. in addition to Vermentino, Cantina Trexenta produces wines from the indigenous Monica, Nuragus and Cannanou varietals.  Try Contissa Vermentino di Sardegna.


Akènta is a sparkling Vermentino that is cellared beneath the sea. The bottle is a mosaic of sea creatures.












Prosecco’s Enore Ceola, Managing Director & CEO, Mionetto USA

Sales of Prosecco, the sparkling wine produced in the Veneto region of Italy, are bubbling.  According to Vinexpo CEO Guillame Deglise, “Sales of Prosecco will surpase 412 million bottles by 2020, as the sparking wine tases over from discounted Champagne.” (The Drinks Business, March 2017).

Many years ago we took on the responsibility of promoting Prosecco in the USA. It was tough sell!  Now days, bottles of Prosecco are flying off the shelves.

So, what caused the sure in Prosecco’s popularity?

We discuss Prosecco’s appeal with Enore Ceola, CEO and Managing Director of Mionetto USA, who has had a large role in helping change the image and driving sales for Prosecco and his brand in the USA.

Enore Ceola, Managing Director, Mionetto USA

Born in the heart of the Prosecco region, Enore Ceola grew up on a winery bordering the Friuli and Veneto regions of Italy. He graduated from the Institute of Technology at Pordenone with a degree in architecture. He had a brief stint as a civil engineer before deciding to drop everything to marry the love his life, Ursula, an American exchange student after a two-year courtship.

In early 1997, he returned to his family roots and reached out to Mionetto for employment prior to leaving for the U.S. With a stroke of luck, he was informed that the Director of U.S. Exports position had recently been vacated and was promptly introduced to the entire Mionetto family, leading him to immediately accept an offer at the company.

Soon thereafter, he found himself in New York City, newly married, introducing not only Mionetto Prosecco, but also the Prosecco category itself to the American market.  Mionetto, est 1887, just celebrated its 130 anniversary.


In our conversation, Enore reflects on the past, present and future of Prosecco. Listen now on The Connected Table LIVE!



Read Melanie’s article explaining Prosecco in



From Valpolicella- Raffaele Boscaini, Masi Agricola

We visit Valpolicella, the “land of many cellars,” with Raffaele Boscaini, General Coordinator of Masi Technical Group and Director of Marketing, who represents the seventh generations of this venerable 200-year-old wine estate.

The name Masi comes from “Vaio dei Masi,” the little valley purchased by the Boscaini family in the late 18th Century.  Masi Agricola also manages the most historic estate in Valpolicella, which once belonged to descendants of the legendary 14th Century poet Dante, the noble Serego Alighieri family.

Sandro and Raffele Boscaini (front row left) with the MASI Technical Group team

You can call the Boscainis one of the “noble families” of wine making in Valpolicella. Wine Writer Hugh Johnson has called Masi wines “milestones of enology in Verona.” We’ll discuss the family’s history and role in the production of Amarone and Recioto and evolution of MASI’s trademarked APPAXXIMENTO® (appassimento) method of drying grapes. In 1964 MASI introduced a “supervenetian” category of wine, Campofiorin. Masi also has projects outside the Veneto in Tuscany and Argentina, in collaboration with Serego Alighieri.

Listen to Raffaele Boscaini on The Connected Table LIVE! on iHeart here:



Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto, Chianti Classico

We met the lovely Laura Bianchi last July when she came to New York to present a vertical tasting of Castello di Monsanto‘s iconic Il Poggio Chianti Classico Cru dating back to the 1960s. This wine is only made in the best vintages using only estate grown fruit, and hand-picked grapes, Monsanto owns the largest reserves of Chianti Classico in Tuscany, and it was the first winery in the region to make a Chianti Classico Cru.

Castello di Monsanto was started by Laura’s grandfather, Aldo Bianchi, a native of San Gimignano, who left Tuscany before the Second World War to seek fortune in the North of Italy. In 1960, he came back to the area for a wedding and was enchanted by the view from the terrace of Castello di Monsanto, encompassing the Val d’Elsa with the backdrop of the Towers of San Gimignano.

He purchased the property within a few months. But if Aldo was bewitched by the landscape, Fabrizio, his son, immediately fell in love with the wines he found in the cellar. Thanks to a passion for wine handed down to him by his grandmother, who came from Piedmont, and to an innate entrepreneurial spirit, Fabrizio, together with his wife Giuliana, started to plant new vineyards and convert the numerous farmhouses. Today, Castello di Monsanto remains a family owned and operated company, overseen by Fabrizio and daughter, Laura.

Laura studied law and brefly worked in law before joining the family business where she works side by side with her father. She unwinds by practicing yoga.

Laura Bianchi, Castello di Monsanto

Bottles of Il Poggio from our tasting

Listen to our interview with Laura Bianchi December 20tth now on iHeart. Click below.



Two Grapes Get a Makeover

Recently we attended two tastings that sparked our interest. Neither of the varietals spotlighted were front and center in our minds, and we welcomed the chance to educate our palates and try the wines.

Alicia Linis family has been making Lambrusco wines in Emilia-Romagna since 1910. A fourth generation family member, Alicia was recently in New York at i Trulli restaurant to share her family’s portfolio of LINI 910‘s sparkling wines, one produced in the metodo classico style and the other through the charmat process. She joins us June 7 to discuss why she feels the time is now for Lambrusco


Alicia Lini


Meunier Steps Out 

The invitation was to learn about Meunier (a.k.a. Petit Meunier), one-third of the Holy Trinity of Champagne grapes, the others being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It’s the second most widely grown grape in the region after PInot Noir and the least known. So, nine producers decided to band together to show Meunier some love, which they did at a tasting at Corkbuzz June 6th.

Fanny Heucq‘s family is an organic grower producer in the Marne Valley. She joins us June 7 to share Champagne-Heucqs story and why she feels the time is now to spotlight Meunier.


Fanny Heucq


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A Restaurant Star in the City of Stars

City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants
It’s love

– Lyrics from “La La Land”

My last big trip to La La Land involved supplying George Duboeuf Poully-Fuisse to P Diddy’s Fourth of July White Party in Beverly Hills in 2009. White wine for a white party hosted by a hip hop/rap music mogul. It was hotter than Hades, and there was no shade for the wine bars or gift bags.  P Diddy may be a music impressario, but his stiletto-shod, mini-dress clad event production team didn’t have a tent or proper refrigeration for the wines which suffered in the heat. I worked like a crazy person to salvage the wine and to nab this “money shot” for Duboeuf.  “Diddy” refused to be photographed holding any alcohol other than his Ciroc Vodka. Still, this photo made them happy,

At P Diddy”s White Party July 2009 with Nicolas Ronteix and Barbara Scalera, both at the time working for Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.

Thank goodness for fabulous ladies Leslie Sbrocco (l) Natalie Bovis (c) and Rachel Burkons (c) with Barbara Scalera (r) who were part of our small entourage.
Thank goodness for fabulous ladies Leslie Sbrocco (l) Natalie Bovis (c) and Rachel Burkons (c) with Barbara Scalera (r) who were part of our small entourage.

City of (Restaurant) Stars

Even though Los Angeles is filled with talented chefs and restaurateurs, it’s a New Yorker, Bobby Flay, who’s the first chef to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We haven’t visited Los Angeles for awhile (since the crazy Diddy-do), so it was nice to run into Piero Selvaggio at VINO 2017 and invite him on the show. Piero is a polished Gucci loafer in a sea of sand-crusted flip flops. I like to say Los Angeles is Silicone Valley, where fat is OK for the lips but not for the hips. But back to Piero….

Restaurateur Piero Selvaggio is trim, tan and permanently youthful looking. He has that healthy La La Land glow which New York restaurateurs never seem to have. Maybe it’s the sun and surf; maybe it’s not dealing with the headaches of onerous New York landlords. Or maybe it’s his Sicilian heritage and being brought up on a Mediterranean diet. Piero is one of those amazing restaurateurs who’ve endured economic ups and downs, changes in trends and tastes and even an earthquake which destroyed his award winning wine cellar. And he still looks like a star!

Is red wine the Fountain of Youth? The ever youthful Piero Selvaggio.

Piero opened his Santa Monica restaurant, Valentino, after graduating in college in 1972. I was still in high school; “Italian food” meant Pasquale’s Pizza parlor and Chef Boyardee in Chattanooga. That was 45 years ago!

I can’t imagine how many Valentine’s Day marriage proposals, wedding anniversaries, or movie deals have been celebrated at Valentino over 45 years. Valentino has won just about every award that matters, especially in wine and service. It is a star among restaurants in the City of Stars.

Star like ravioli from Valentino Ristorante

When we scheduled Piero for our February 15th show he said to me in an email, “We are…the old warriors of the Industry…”  No, Piero, we are the enduring ones whose lights are constant and never dim, and who always remain fabulous!

Virginie Saveyrs, Owner, Avignonesi

A Corner of Italy- Nobile Di Montepulciano’s Avignonesi

That same summer of Diddy took me (with David) to Tuscany and the Veneto for the Trip of a Lifetime: two weeks touring four wine regions, all for work on a project called Italian Wine Masters which we launched in the USA.

During that trip I discovered and fell in love with Nobile di Montepulciano wines. I remember our visit to Avignonesi and its owner, a gracious woman who hosted us, Virginie Saverys. I ran into Virginie last Fall at the StarChefs International Chefs Congress, and we caught up after so many years.

A lawyer by profession who was born in Ghent, Belgium, Virginie invested in Avignonesi in 20017 and acquired the winery in full in 2009 after retiring from practicing law. Virginie is a strong believer in organic products and homeopathic medicine and has worked to convert the winery to sustainable farming methods. Today, Avignonesi comprised of eight vineyards within the Montepulciano region.

Here’s our show with Virginie Saverys and Piero Selvaggio:

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Love, Italian Style

When it comes to passion, the Italians are brimming with it. Oh, the French are incredibly romantic, and the Greeks will tell you they created passion (as well as comedy, tragedy and democracy). But Italian passione just seems to overflow with abbondanza.

So, it’s been a pleasure to indulge our passion for Italian wine which has been flowing steadily since January starting with Benvenuto Brunello and continuing this week with VINO2017 and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri. David heads to Tuscany for the annual Anteprima while I spend Valentine’s Day solo with perhaps a plate of pasta with parmigiano, a little red wine and my Maltese dog Sazerac.

Movie: “Lady and the Tramp”

We’re passionate about Italian white truffles, creamy burrata with fresh tomatoes, nutty parmigiano on anything and especially shaved over roasted Italian vegetables served with branzino poached in olive oil and lemon. David loves pici. I like gnocchi. We both love the diversity of wines and never cease to stop exploring and trying regions and producers we are less familiar with.  Most recently is was Le Marche with this interview with Emiliano Bernardi of Colonnara Winery on The Connected Table SIPS.

Continuing the Italian wine trail, our February 15 will begin with Virginia Saverys of Avignonesi Winery and continue with a guest from Anteprima.

David talks about his career in wine and his passion for Italian wine on The Connected Table LIVE! February 8.

 “Vino Italiano”, co-authored by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch, is one of our go- to reference books for Italian wines. We’ve known David for years, from his days as Senior Editor for Wine & Spirits Magazine to his incarnation as a sought after sommelier at restaurants like Babbo in New York City and Quince in San Francisco. We’ve enjoyed reading his articles in magazines like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and GQ.  We didn’t have the chance to check out his wine tavern, St. Vincent, and were excited to read recently that he’s become editorial director at the e-commerce site, SommSelect.

David Lynch at VINO 2017

On February 6, David moderated a panel at VINO 2017 on Trends and Opportunities in the US Market for Italian Wines. Some of the information revealed from a survey of wine consumers under age 40 on why they choose wine was not terribly surprising. More reinforcing. This infographic depicts what comes to mind when this group thinks of Italian wine.


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Italy’s Marche- Birthplace of Verdicchio

Central Italy’s Marche region, with its rolling hills that spill into the Adriatic Sea, is an agricultural breadbasket for food and wine. Here, olives, mushrooms, truffles, fresh fruits and vegetables and, of course, grapes to make wine are a few examples of the region’s bounty.


Cupramontana in the center of the Marche is considered the world capital of the white grape varietal, Verdicchio. The word “Verdicchio” is derived from verde, or green, which refers to the yellowish-green skin of the grape. The grape produces crisp, dry wines with naturally high acidity. Aromas consist of delicate citrus fruits and almonds. The Verdicchio varietal is used to make both still and sparkling wines, and the Marche makes some of Italy’s finest.

The Marche, and specifically the town of Cupramontana, is considered the world capital for growing the Verdicchio grape varietal.

Cupramontan it also where Colonnara Winery, founded in 1959 by a group of 19 farmers, produces a range of elegant still and sparkling wines.  Export Manager for Colonnara Winery, discusses what makes the Marche unique to growing the Verdicchio grape as well as other varietals  and the winery’s role in region on this edition of The Connected Table SIPS!


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We had the chance to dine with Emiliano Bernardi on November 29, 2016 at a dinner hosted by Theresa Rodgers at Horseneck Wines, a popular wine shop in Greenwich, CT.  Held at elegant L’Escale restaurant, our favorite pairing was the Colonnara 2015 Cuprese Verdicchio with Squid Ink Linguini “De La Mer.” We asked for seconds of both the pasta and the wine!


David and Melanie with Emiliano Bernardi November 28 at L'Escale Restaurant in Greenwich, CT. The dinner was hosted by Teresa Rodgers, proprietor of Horseneck Wines, a popular Greenwich based wine shop.
David and Melanie with Emiliano Bernardi November 29, 2016 at L’Escale Restaurant in Greenwich, CT.


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A Nobler Pinot Grigio- Visiting with Alto Adige’s Giovanni Bonmartini Fini

Summer is the perfect time for exploring the lighter side of wines, but often people think that this means wines that are less expressive and flavorful. Pinot Grigio gets that bad wrap probably more than any other varietal offering.

Enter Giovanni Bonmartini Fini, proprietor of Italy’s Barone Fini wines, a producer premium Pinot Grigio from Trentino/Alto Adige in Italy’s north, where arguably the best wines from this varietal are made.

Giovanni Barone Fini
Giovanni Bonmartini Fini

“When I took over the company in 1997 after my uncle passed away, Pinot Grigio as a category had become dominated by cheap agro-industrial mass-produced wine that didn’t require, or warrant, much respect.” says Giovanni. “Our family, along with a few other like-minded producers, had seen this trend and set out to re-build the perception of what Pinot Grigio could be, and prove the potential of Italy’s most important white grape to make one of the world’s best, most versatile, and food friendly white wines.”

Cultivating vineyards has been a family business since 1497 when the two noble Venetian families of Bonmartini and Fini united in marriage and began producing wines in northeastern Italy. Today, the Bonmartini family, direct descendants of the Barone Finis, continue to manage this venerable property producing 150,000 cases per yer. In the U.S. Barone Fini wines are marketed by  Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, a company committed to working with family owned wineries around the world. Follow Barone Fini wines on Facebook .



We discuss the good side of Pinot Grigio with one of its fiercest protectors and advocates on the Wednesday August 19th episode  of The Connected Table LIVE! Listen to this show  on iHeart radio.through or the iHeart App.  Direct link:


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Read David Ransom’s cover story on Giovanni Bonmartini Fini in the March 2015 issue of Tasting Panel Magazine here.