2013 Cantina del Taburno Fidelis Sannio Aglianico DOP



Cantina del Taburno was built in 1972 in the town of Foglianise on the slopes of Mount Taburno. The winery is owned by the “Consorzio Agrario di Benevento” (Agricultural Consortium of Benevento), which was founded in 1901 to promote development of agriculture in the Sannio region of Italy.

The winery uses grapes harvest from vineyards (approximately 1,500 acres) spread among the towns of Foglianise, Torrecuso, Vitulano, Campoli del Monte Taburno, Castelpoto, Apollosa, Bonea, Montesarchio, Ponte, Tocco Caudio, Paupisi and Benevento. Many factors contribute to the exceptional quality of the grapes, including soil (a mix of clay and calcareous), climate (mild Winters with Fall and Spring rainfall and warm, dry Summers) and the slope-side positioning of the vineyards. The consortium has also been very careful to ensure that the most modern wine-making techniques are employed at the winery.


As a consortium-owned facility, the winery is used by approximately 300 grape growers. The primary red grape vinified at the winery is Aglianico del Sannio, with other minor red varietals, such as Piedirosso and Sciascinoso present. The primary white grape vinified is Falanghina, with other minor white varietals, such as Coda di Volpe, Greco and Fiano present. Despite the breadth of wines produced, one of the most-popular wines is the Fidelis.

The Fidelis is a blend of 90% Aglianico along with Sangiovese and Merlot. The vineyards are located on slopes approximately 1,000 – 1,800 feet above sea-level and have a southeast and northeast exposure. The soils, as previously noted are clay and calcareous, which add a distinctive minerality to the wine. Vine density is limited to no more than 1,500 per acre with a Guyot trellis system to promote maximum sun absorption. Harvesting is accomplished entirely by hand with only the ripest clusters being chosen and used in the must. Extended maceration to improve color and phenolic saturation, along with full malolactic fermentation to promote roundness, are employed in the winery. The wine is then aged in second and third use oak barriques to smooth and temper the wine.

The wine is a delight on the palate with vibrant, dark fruit flavors and pretty floral notes. Well-balanced with firm acidity and great structure, the wine makes for a very pleasant accompaniment to a meal. Not for long term aging, but the wine will gain complexity with a few more years in bottle.

The wine is a great value, with an average cost of $17.99/bottle. In some markets, the wine is certainly priced to move at $10.99/bottle, which represents a fantastic everyday wine. Despite the bargain price, the high-quality of the grapes and production are clearly in evidence in the wine.

2013 Cantina Luigi Pira Serralunga Barolo


Barolo is known as the “king” of Italian wine, heralding an elegance and nobility that is fitting of royalty. Produced in the region of Piedmont from Nebbiolo grapes, the wines are characteristically shy, taking many years to fully bloom. Even with more than twenty years of age, Barolo can be tight and reserved, but with coaxing the wines give forth layers of delicate complexity and nuance.

As a true student of wine, I have been an avid follower of Barolo since the beginning of my wine journey thirty-five years ago. I truly became a fan with the 1997 vintage, within which there seemed to be a limitless collection of amazing Barolo. Having acquired and laid-down many producers from this pivotal vintage, the wines are showing incredible grace and elegance with a twenty-year patina that is like no other wine.

Prices escalated as Barolo racked up successive vintages of stunning wines. It was clear that a favored region was becoming inaccessible.

And then the 2013 vintage arrived. Heralded as one of the best vintages of the decade, the wines are coming to market with all the characteristics of the famed 1997 vintage, and surprisingly in some cases the prices are actually quite reasonable.

I have tasted through most of the major producers and will be highlighting those that I have chosen to purchase over the next few months. The good news is that if you are lucky enough to grab some of these wines, you will not be disappointed. Their aging potential seems as prodigious as the wines of 1997, so keeping them around is an admirable end game. The bad news is that in many cases the quantities of some of these wines is limited, so finding them may be a challenge. Especially finding them at reasonable prices. Like any supply-and-demand market, as supply dwindles, demand rises and so does price.

The Cantina Luigi Pira is a Barolo that is new to me. The winery was opened in the 1950’s, first supplying grapes and then primarily bulk wines through the 1980’s. In the 1990’s, Pira began to stress quality over quantity and in 1993 they produced their first Barolo. Later in the decade the winery acquired the three Serralunga plots that provide the Nebbiolo for its single vineyard Barolo wines: Rionda, Marenca and Margheria.

The estate now farms 12 hectares (approximately 29 acres) of vineyards planted mostly to Nebbiolo, with smaller plantings of Dolcetto and Barbera. Cantina Pira Luigi avoids the use of chemicals in the vineyard, instead favoring natural farming practices that emphasize low yields. Production is relatively small with just 5000 cases made annually.

The wine featured here is their basic Serralunga Barolo, made from grapes obtained from the “Le Rivette” zone located in the lower parts of the Marenca and Margheria vineyards. Like a second label wine from a fine Bordeaux Chateau, the essence of quality present in the “first growth” wines is clearly in evidence. The calcareous-clay soil provides great structure and terrior to the wine.

The wine is showing very well now, with a vibrant nose featuring cherry, dried herbs, mineral and light floral hints. Very pretty. Well-balanced with firm tannin and moderate acidity. The palate is dense and dark with tightly-packed fruit, exhibiting gamey, savory notes and a hint of allspice. The finish is very long and somewhat closed. With time, the aftertaste blossoms with layers of wonderful complexity. The wine should improve with time in the bottle, perhaps ten years or more.

I picked this wine up at the Medfield Wine Shoppe a few weeks ago. It was priced very reasonably at $39.99/bottle before any case discounts. I can’t say if they have anymore at that price, or if they have anymore of the wine period, but I can say that if you enjoy Barolo and you want a wine that can age gracefully for at least the next ten years, then this wine is an extraordinary value worthy of a phone call…


2015 Emporium Appassimento Rosso Salento IGT

An unusual Italian offering… Vino Passito from Salento… what is Vino Passito from Salento? Well, Vino Passito is a style of wine, also known as Straw Wine, which involves the drying of grapes on straw mats to concentrate and “raisinate” the grapes before fermentation. The byproduct of the process is a heightened complexity and intensity in the resulting wine. In the case of this wine, the process involves late harvesting the finest grapes after they have been allowed to dry on the vine. Not quite traditional, because the process does illicit similar results.

Salento is a region in Puglia in Southern Italy known for full-throttle reds made from the native Primitivo and Negroamaro grapes. This wine is a 50/50 blend and the late harvest process showcases the intensity of these two varieties.

My impressions… Lush, fruity nose with loads of cooked fruit and exotic spice. Broad palate with jammy, dark flavors. Well-balanced and smooth with soft, integrated tannins. Long finish with layers of unfolding complexity. Drinking superbly with moderate aging potential. Simply wonderful.

The other good news? This wine is a fantastic value at an average price in the Boston-area of $14.99/ per bottle pre-discount.

2015 Domaine Anne Gros – Jean-Paul Tollot La 50/50 Cotes du Brian


A charming, full-throttle wine from Minervois, although because of varietal requirements the wine can only carry a “table wine” designation. The product of a 50-50 partnership between two eminent Burgundian producers – Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot. Both produce infinitesimally small amounts of Cote d’Or Burgundy from some of the most sought-after plots of soil, which are testaments to their skill as winemakers. In choosing to go south into the Languedoc, the pair bring their Burgundian skills to bear on a fabulous site of old vines in Minervois – 35 year old Carignan, 60 year old Cinsault, 22 year old Grenache, and some younger Syrah, each go into the cepage of this wine.

As previously noted, although the grapes all come from old vines in Minervois, the wine is only entitled to a “Vin de Table” designation because the Minervois AOC requires at least 40% Carignan. However, Anne prefers a balance of more or less equal amounts of Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache with some Syrah rounding out the blend. Like Marilisa Allegrini in Valpolicella choosing to delimit their Palazzo della Torre from Valpolicella Classico to IGT Verona many years ago, Anne prefers delimiting to IGP Pays de Herault, rather than make an inferior blend tied to AOC Minervois. This kind of bold decision-making in the face of global marketing pressure is why the wines of Anne Gros are so fabulous.

The wine itself is terrific, with an explosive nose filled with fresh cherry, black berry and rose petal notes. Stainless-steel fermentation preserves the freshness and purity of the fruit, which sings boldly on the palate. Dense and juicy with great acidic balance, the wine is clearly at home with food. And yet, the subliminal complexity of exotic spices, wet stone and fresh herbs offer contemplative rewards. Drinking exceptionally well now, the wine should mature nicely over the next 2 to 3 years, but this is not a wine for aging.

In the greater-Boston area the wine is represented by Arborway Imports and was available in limited quantities at Berman’s in Lexington, MA. Regular, pre-discount pricing is $24.99/per bottle… the wine was on sale at $15.99/per bottle in case quantities… If there is interest, I strongly urge acting FAST.


2018 Musings on the Vine Wine Events!


To Our Supporters…

The Schedule of 2018 Wine Events is now available on the Musings website here: 2018 Wine Events

You can also check out our: Facebook Events Page

Please visit for all the details and make sure you sign up early! These events usually always fill up fast!

** Please Note: Attendance at all events MUST be confirmed by sending email to Paul_Malagrifa@MusingsOnTheVine.com


Fallen Leaves

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Great War, WWI ended. The first world-wide conflict that changed the face of war forever was finally over, but it would only be a temporary lull, until aggression again consumed the world with the start of WWII.

Today is a solemn day of remembrance and an opportunity to thank all of the men and women who have given “that last full measure of devotion” in defense of this great nation.

To commemorate this day, Charles Schumann has produced a near-perfect libation… The Fallen Leaves…

1-1/2 oz. Calvados

1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antico Sweet Vermouth

1/2 oz. Dolan Dry Vermouth

1/4 oz. Cognac

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

God bless veterans everywhere! Without your tireless sacrifice, this nation would cease to exist…


The Larchmont

David A. Embury, a Manhattan-based attorney, was born on this day in 1866. Who is David A. Embury, you ask? Well, Mr. Embury wrote one of the most pivotal books on cocktails in 1948, entitled The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, which essentially guided generations of men and women to a boozy future. I have read this sacred volume at least a dozen times and have tried to commit its contents to memory. Alas, so compendious is this work that not even my eidetic memory can store all of the recipes.

The Larchmont is in honor of Mr. Embury and hails for the book 365 Days of Cocktails…

An orangy riff on the standard daiquiri, refreshing and yet pleasingly Fall-like…

1-1/2 oz. White Rum

1/2 oz. Grand Marnier

1/2 oz. Lime Juice

1/2 oz. Cold Water

1/4 oz. Simple Syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


Elderflower Martini


Almost 50 years ago, hippies came together to celebrate the season of Aquarius and love, gathering in Upstate New York for an unforgettable “love-in.” In honor of those hippie grandparents, a concoction of psychedelic proportions, the Elderflower Martini. A careful balance of sweet and sour, with a perfumed essence not unlike the air at Woodstock 50 years ago… potent, but without feeling so… and safer than licking blotter acid…

Ladies and gentlemen, the Elderflower Martini…

3 oz. London Dry Gin (I actually used Plymouth to enhance the floral essence)

3/4 oz. Dry Vermouth (I used Dolan, again to emphasize flowers)

3/4 oz. Elderflower Liqueur

3/4 oz. Crème de Violette

Shake with crushed ice until very cold. Strain and garnish with an orange peel, if necessary. I added a dash of orange bitters to give the cocktail an edge.


An Evening with Chef Rosario


I think I visited Bertucci’s for the first time back in 1983. I was still in school and living in a sublet that Summer and the Davis Square outpost was a regular haunt, given its delicious brick oven pizza and basement bocce courts. After college, my tastes turned more towards finer cuisine, but I always found myself returning to Bertucci’s. Something about the pizza and the simplicity of the other dishes made it easy and gratifying. There was a welcoming, homey feel and a genuine, authenticity to the food that reminded me of home.

Fast forward 30+ years and I am still a regular at Bertucci’s, more so now because of the welcoming family atmosphere and convenience of their many locations. One might initially think that Bertucci’s is just another Olive Garden – family-friendly Italian food without soul or passion – non-distinctive and guaranteed not to offend. Well, you would be wrong.

A recent evening spent with the Chef Rosario Del Nero, Vice President of Culinary – Executive Chef at Bertucci’s was both eye-opening, as well as a validation that Bertucci’s truly has soul and passion when it comes to Italian food.

The evening began several weeks before, when Ryan, the Manager at the Attleboro Bertucci’s told us that the customer feedback forms that we diligently enter after each meal are read by all the management in the company, including Chef Rosario. Ryan indicated that if we wanted to see some of our old favorites brought back, then we should tag Chef Rosario in our comments and let him know about our nostalgic hunger pangs.

Well, my better half did exactly that, explaining our long-time support of Bertucci’s and our desire to see our favorite pasta dish, Rigatoni ala Bertucci, brought back to the fold. Lo and behold, Chef Rosario responded and invited us to be his guest at a nearby Bertucci’s to prepare the dish with our support. So, we set a date and eagerly waited for the evening to arrive.

And the visit was magical. Not only did we get to have an evening with an incredibly passionate and genuine Renaissance man, but the welcoming support of the staff at the Attleboro Bertucci’s had us feeling like we had just stopped by our Nonna’s for a quick bite.

For those who don’t realize it, the food at Bertucci’s is entirely homemade. Nothing is pre-prepared, so the food is as fresh as possible every day. We were welcomed with a mouth-watering assortment of antipasti, as well as a dish of homemade meatballs in marinara sauce. The meatballs are a returning signature to the menu and represent a key element of Chef Rosario’s approach to food – freshness, authenticity and passion. And they did not disappoint – moist and flavorful with just the right blend of spice, prepared by Suzette, an Area Director who oversees as many as seven restaurants. That is true passion.



As we noshed, Chef Rosario shared a bit of his history and that of Bertucci’s. Chef’s anecdotes about his home town in Lombardy and the remarkable Bitto Storico cheese produced there were captivating. We learned that Bitto Storico is a cow and goat milk cheese produced in the Valtellina valley of Lombardy by means of traditional methods promoted by Slow Food. The cheese is only produced in Summer, when the cows and goats can free-range in the high alpine meadows. The resulting cheese, according to Chef Rosario is one of the most amazing cheeses of Italy, having the ability to age for more than 25 years. You know what I am going to look for the next time I visit Wasik’s in Wellesley!


After our antipasti, Chef Rosario donned his white apron to prepare the dish that brought us together in the first place – Rigatoni ala Bertucci. The dish was on the menu back in the 1990’s, but was ultimately removed, largely due to the risks in making the signature Vodka Cream Sauce. It had been one of our favorites and for good reason – it is truly amazing – simple, fresh with a perfect balance of ingredients. And, no, I am not going to divulge the recipe, as simple as it is… you can visit the Attleboro Bertucci’s and see if Ryan, Hillary and crew will duplicate it for you…



We shared more stories over dessert and before we knew it, the evening was at an end. We made many new friends and feel an even deeper connection to Bertucci’s. While Bertucci’s is obviously a profit-making business, it is also a set of restaurants whose purpose is to promote the wonderful importance of Italian food and the warmth and vibrancy of Italian culture. Chef Rosario is the embodiment of this and through his example, ensures that every visit to Bertucci’s is amazing.


To top it off, our son even got to make his own meatball pizza, his favorite, courtesy of the same Area Manager who made the meatballs earlier in the day.


Our thanks to Chef Rosario and all the staff at the Attleboro Bertucci’s for making our visit truly memorable.

Buon Apetito!

Connie’s Rustic Kitchen & Tavern, Wrentham


Finally got in to try a brand new (as of July 5th) Wrentham restaurant – Connie’s Rustic Kitchen and Tavern. Overall, for a brand-new place, we were pleased with what we found.

The accommodations are definitely Tavern-like. A bit worn around the edges, but overall comfortable and homey. It was quiet on the evening that we dined, but I can imagine, it must get fairly energetic with a crowd.

Our server was very sincere and eager to please, albeit a bit young and inexperienced. I am chocking this up to the newness of the restaurant. Our waitress was incredibly accommodating, but needed to check almost all our questions with either the bar, or the kitchen before answering.

Next, the bar. As someone who dives deep on cocktails and wine, I can be overly critical of bar service. I always have a few test drinks that I use to gauge service. In this case, a Negroni was not possible because of a lack of key ingredients – Campari. I was a trifle dismayed that the barkeep failed to recognize the cocktail by name, but he seemed like a nice enough guy that had he the ingredients, he could have rolled a decent cocktail. The wine list is short and simple, with very modest pricing.

Visiting the link above, brings you to a Facebook page that has some mouth-watering pictures, which are what drew us in. The menu offers gastro-pub cuisine with specials that aim for a notch above. We tried a variety of items – base menu and specials to get a sense of the quality, etc.


Appetizers were divided. The Fried Calamari was very nice, with a light batter that was not oily and a good quantity of rings and tentacles.


The special Caprese Salad was a disappointment. The tomatoes were under ripe and lacked taste and the mozzarella was rubbery, also without much taste. The drizzle of balsamic was tasty but could not make up for the blandness of the other ingredients. To me, a special should be exactly that – special and probably based on the availability of exceptional ingredients. In this case, the ingredients were lacking.


Entrees were again divided. The Chicken Involtini was very nice with a seductive wine sauce and a mouth-watering stuffing. The Chicken and Broccoli over pasta was disappointing and bland. The chicken was flavorful, but the sauce was thin and way too garlicky. A little more creaminess and a little less garlic would dramatically improve the dish.


Only one dessert is offered and it changes weekly. At our visit a huge, homemade ice cream sandwich was on offer. Visually stunning and very tasty. While we were told that the cookies were chocolate chip, we all agreed that the taste suggested the presence of oatmeal… confirmation with the kitchen came back as chocolate chip…

As previously noted, overall, we were pleased and given the newness, need to return to make further inroads. Everything appears promising and despite some missteps during our visit, nothing was so egregious to dissuade us from returning. We love local, so we will be tugging hard for Connie’s to succeed!