The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Mille Una 2013 Majara Primitivo

A mineral-laden, fruity wine that’s perfect for flavor-packed foods!

RD9049-2Last week, my father was visiting from Italy and made us his world-class lasagna for Sunday dinner. We chose this marvelous Mille Una 2013 Majara Primitivo to go with it.

Primitivo is an Italian grape varietal that is native to the southern region of Puglia and parts of Sicily, and in the nineteenth century, it came to the US, where it thrives in the California heat. Wines made with Primitivo tend to be very dark with juicy acidity, and this one from Mille Una certainly was. Primitivos are well known for being fruit bombs—especially on the nose. Because of its fruit forwardness, Primitivo wines pair well with grilled meats, spicy foods and pretty much any dish with a lot of flavor. My father’s lasagna covered most of those criteria, and this pairing was a hit.

This Puglian Primitivo was velvety and fruity with a hint of spice and notes of chocolate that finished off our dish in pure Italian style. A hint of fresh herbs and minerality lingered on well after the initial nose of black fruit. This minerality was unsurprising, as Mille Una’s 35-year-old vines grow in a mineral-rich soil and the estate’s fermentation process uses only natural yeast and stainless steel barriques, making for an interpretation of the terroir without intervention. An excellent choice for any BBQ or flavor-packed dish, this Primitivo wine is under $22, making it perfect for your spur-of-the-moment family dinners!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Col Vetoraz 2013 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene

Fresh, bright, food-friendly and under $22 Prosecco

millesimatoWhen I lived in Italy, I often used to hear the phrase “Italians do it better.” I would think to myself, “Who do they think they’re kidding?” Truth be told, they’re not kidding. When it comes to the finer things in life, the things they believe in, and the things that comprise their culture, Italians truly do it better.

This weekend, my wife and I had some guests over for dinner and we put out a full spread. We served antipasti consisting of salamis, cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruit, followed by a vegetable pasta course. Then came a choice of grilled salmon or chicken breast accompanied by grilled eggplant and zucchini, a side salad, and dessert to finish. Our plan was to serve a Prosecco for the antipasti, followed by a choice of a white and a rosé for the rest, then more Prosecco for dessert—but that plan didn’t quite work out. The Prosecco was so good that we ended up enjoying it during the entire meal. It was an instant crowd-pleaser, and it paired with literally everything we served, especially the strawberries, which it made burst with freshness.

This sparkler was Col Vetoraz 2013 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, under $22 and absolutely delicious. It was fresh, bright, and balanced with tones of citrus, honey and flowers, yet it was also well rounded with a hint of spice and notes of ripe green and peach fruits. Big dry bubbles balanced the mild acidity as it went down, and the finish was crisp, leaving our mouths watering for more. It’s perfect for aperitifs and any light meals, and its freshness makes it ideal to drink all summer long. This Prosecco is a true testament to how Italians do, and to how they really do it better!

Recipe: Linguine with Fresh Basil Pesto and Pomodorini

A delicious, easy recipe for very authentic pasta

Homemade-Pesto-MortarI love pasta! When I was about 12 years old, my father went to a ten-day class at a revered culinary school in Umbria to learn how to cook restaurant-worthy food for his four children. At the time, it didn’t occur to me why he was doing it, but ever after that experience, he made the most delicious meals. From as few as just the two of us to a hundred guests at a time, friends and family alike would never miss a chance to enjoy my dad’s legendary barbecues and dinners.

In particular, his greatest praise came from his specially marinated meats, which were always grilled to perfection, but above all, his extraordinary pastas garnered “Oohs” and “Ahs” from diners.

I’d sit and watch in amazement as he poured heart and soul into his pasta dishes. Each step of the process meticulously thought out, executed like a symphony, and explained in full—what he was doing and why he was doing it. While I gained a lot from his technical knowledge, what I gained most from watching my father cook was the love that he put into each dish.

Although my father seems to have an infinite repertoire of unbelievable dishes with his own little twist on each, this recipe for pasta with pesto is one he never made for us, so I dedicate it to him and promise to make it for him one day soon. Salute, Papà!


1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves

2 peeled garlic cloves

16oz. Pomodorini (Cherry Tomatoes)

2oz. freshly grated Pecorino

4oz. freshly grated Parmigiano

2tbls Pignoli (Pine Nuts)

Coarse Sea Salt

Ground Black Pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1lb Linguine (1 box)

Preparation: 30 min.

Servings: four

Pesto gets its name from the original method of pounding and grinding its ingredients in a mortar, so I suggest using one to get the best results. You can use a food processor, though.

Place the garlic cloves in the mortar with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and start to pound into a white paste.

Add the fresh basil leaves a bunch at a time and continue to pound/grind in a circular motion until a liquid paste forms.

A little at a time, add the pecorino and parmigiano in and continue to mix into a brighter green homogeneous paste

Add the Pignoli and pound or grind them in so that they break up into small pieces

Add some olive oil, a bit at a time, and mix until you reach the desired consistency

Sprinkle in some freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and put the in a medium saucepan with some olive oil.

Add a ½ a teaspoon of salt, cover and simmer on a medium flame until the tomatoes are soft.

Once soft, crush the tomatoes into a bit of a pulp with a wooden spoon, cover and remove the saucepan from the flame, letting sit to cool down while preparing the pasta.

Fill a pot with water, add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to boil, then add the pasta.

Once the pasta is ready, save ½ cup of the pasta broth and strain the pasta.

Mix the pesto into the crushed tomatoes, then add to the pasta, mixing gently yet extensively.

Add some of the pasta broth to the mix and sprinkle in some parmigiano.

Plate, serve and enjoy!

Linguine-Pesto-PomodorinoWe grow our own basil at home, so this was extra fresh and a real treat. My wife and I enjoyed this last Saturday with a wonderful Per Linda Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013, although it would also pair nicely with a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Verdicchio.

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Primaterra Sangiovese 2013

Bright, balanced, easy-drinking $12 Sangiovese

RD8752-2When I lived and worked in Italy, most formal lunches and dinners were accompanied by fabulous wines, as they are here at IWM, and sometimes it’s hard to remember them all. Last Friday lunch I enjoyed a wine that left a lasting impression, Primaterra Sangiovese 2013—it’s a pleasant and refined surprise for a $12 bottle.

While reading the label, I noticed this 2013’s appellation is actually Puglia IGP, which struck me as peculiar, as Primaterra is a Sicilian wine producer. Upon researching this wine a bit further, I discovered that the producer sources from different regions each year, for the goal is to keep this wine a fresh and fun experience for us who drink it. While previous vintages had different appellations, such as Sicilia IGT or Veneto IGT, Primaterra uses the same exact process to produce the wine each year, in different locations; it’s always 100% Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel casks for 20-30 days, and then it’s aged in oak (30%) and stainless steel (70%), until ready to bottle.

In keeping with Sangiovese’s signature traits of lush fruit aromas and balanced but bright structure, this southern Italian Sangiovese has prominent notes of cherry, and its acidity is noticeable, although kept well in check. A clean finish with a slight hint of lingering spice made this wine all the more drinkable as we polished the bottle off without thinking twice. We enjoyed it with some charcuteries and cheeses, although I suspect it would pair marvelously with a meat or pasta entrée.

I’d drink this wine with just about anything; it’s a good match for any laid-back occasion. My word of advice is to be sure to get more than one bottle—you’ll definitely want more when the first one runs out.

Passing the Torch at Chionetti, Dolcetto Maker Extraordinaire

The honesty and humility of Nicola Chionetti and his family’s wines

Chionetti-GrandsonLast week, IWM had a chance to meet with Nicola Chionetti, grandson of esteemed wine-producing pioneer Quinto Chionetti, and future owner of and winemaker for the famed Dolcetto producing estate.

You don’t often get the opportunity to see how tradition and heritage transfer from grandfather to grandson, in the absence of a father. As ambassador to his grandfather’s estate, Nicola is meticulous and confident, yet he shows humility and gives you an idea of his familial legacy. He is attentive to who and what surrounds him.

Nicola poured some of his new vintages for us, and I must say that we are all in for a treat when these are released. Each wine from the Chionetti estate portrays its land, its character, and its purpose.

I asked Nicola what his family’s winemaking philosophy is, and he replied, “My grandfather use to say: ‘It’s a question of truth.’ The truth is in how the wine reflects the soil while portraying the personality of its maker – we believe that our wine is true to both and hope that it reflects some elegance as well.”

Tasting through the estate’s line-up, I have to agree that Chionetti wines are elegant and honest expressions of land, grape, tradition and the tight-knit family who makes them. Plus, they’re delicious and affordable!

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