Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Georgia: Here Wine Lives

I had the honor of visiting the Republic of Georgia for the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi last week. Very few places have impressed me as much or left me with so much desire to come back that I feel pain.  Georgia is the cradle of wine.  Wine in Georgia is a tradition of place and of people.  Through the ages and through invasions and oppression the people persevered through wine.  The vine (there are over 500 indigenous grape types) is the symbol of both country and people and grape motifs are everywhere. What makes Georgia so fascinating is that their own style wine making has survived. This ancient heritage of Qvevri is now protected and recognized by UNESCO.

Watch this short video on the ancient tradition of Qvervi making.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Top Nine Roman Gelatos

With the hot months around the corner it is almost gelato for every meal season, so I asked Antiqua Tours intern Annie Epstein to write a post on her top nine gelati she has had in Rome.  Annie is a Study Abroad student and great asset to us.  Right now she doesn't have a blog I can link to but I am sure we will be hearing about her in the future.  I am looking forward to tasting gelato this season with our guests. I have linked to The Rome Digest for information on where to find each venue and opening hours. 

Gelateria del Teatro is known for creating pure flavors derived from fresh, well-sourced ingredients, so it’s no surprise that the mint stracciatella has a penetrating herbaceous flavor. A bite of the pale green gelato will pack a creamy punch reminiscent of a just-picked sprig of mint and a bit of chocolate crunch.
  1. Pistachio—Vice
Although one should never visit Italy and miss nocciola, hazelnut, it is also important to branch out within the nut world. Try the pistachio flavor at Vice for a lightly sweet and pleasantly creamy experience. The pistachio, abundant in Southern Italy, is another less appreciated nut in the United States that deserves to be embraced. The nutty taste is a welcome break from heavy chocolate or light fruit, falling just in the middle of the gelato spectrum.
  1. Ananas e zenzero—Fatamorgana
On a whim, I chose this flavor for no better reason than the name. Ananas, I came to find out, means pineapple. Zenzero means ginger. Together, the two flavors create something brand new. The first bite of this pale yellow sorbet has the delicate flavor of very fresh pineapple that finishes with the subtle zing of ginger. Fatamorgana avoids a saccharine pineapple taste and applies a deft hand to the ginger, yielding a floral, multidimensional sorbet that deserves lingering over. It’s perfect for a hot afternoon in Rome.
  1. Fragola—Fior di Luna
Throughout Rome, gelaterias boast florescent red tubs of fragola, strawberry sorbet. Don’t trust these places. Instead, venture to Fior di Luna, tucked away in Trastevere, for a superior experience. When I visited this gelateria, the last flavor on my mind was strawberry. I was drawn to the tubs of gelato rather than sorbet. But from behind the counter there appeared a small spoonful of deep red fragola for me to try. The vegan sorbet tasted as if I’d just stuffed fifteen perfectly ripe strawberries into my mouth. Get it while you can—this gelareria offers the flavor only when strawberries are in season!
  1. Chocolate and fig—Fior di Luna
Another wonderful flavor option is chocolate and fig. While chocolate is satisfying on its own (and Fior di Luna offers a variety of chocolate sorbets of varying cacao percentages), chocolate gelato combined with fig is everything rich and lovely about chocolate with a hint of syrupy fruit. This flavor makes for a satisfying dessert, but the fig keeps it light enough to pass as a snack any time of the day.
  1. Orange—Fior di Luna
Fior di Luna takes pride in its products and takes care to source the best possible ingredients, while adhering to natural restrains such as seasonality. Thus it’s no surprise that the arancia or orange sorbet is a glowing example of the importance of ingredients. The gelateria utilizes the Italian arancia moro, which the shop explains is rich in antioxidants and accounts for the pink-orange color of the sorbet. This ancient Italian fruit is given a chance to shine and the showcases the floral complexity of the red orange. (Italian speakers can read more here:
  1. EstasiFatamorgana
Coffee-chocolate lovers should experience estasi at Fatamorgana, made with coffee, chocolate, and whole hazelnuts, a flavor that’s not too creamy and slightly bitter. Espresso is beloved the world over, so I would be remiss to neglect to include a coffee gelato option. The nutty crunch of hazelnuts melds with the intense coffee bean flavor, softened by a bit of chocolate. The classic combination of nuts, coffee, and chocolate is never a letdown.
  1. Ricotta, fig, and almond—Gelateria del Teatro
Gelateria del Teatro manages to accomplish a flavor that’s tangy, sweet, nutty, and just a bit sour. Despite the use of ricotta, this gelato is light and refreshing. The crunch of the almonds, paired with the floral note of figs, perfectly compliments the ricotta-based gelato. The ricotta, fig, and almond gracefully accomplish a flavor that wins the hearts of sweet and savory dessert lovers.
  1. Chocolate and wine—Gelateria del Teatro
Dark chocolate and red wine is a widely accepted complimentary pair—why not turn them into an antioxidant-packed gelato flavor? Teatro seemingly uses little sugar in this flavor, allowing small bits of chocolate to sweeten each bite. The red wine shines through, bringing out the deep flavors of dark chocolate. This is chocolate gelato all grown up (and a little tipsy).

For more information on our food tours or if you are interested in organizing a gelato tour in Rome, contact us at  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Georgian Wine

Well, today I am off to Tbilisi, Georgia.  I am so excited to taste these incredible wines and learn about Georgian wines.  Expect lots of posts on my Instagram.  I am joining a great group of bloggers before and after the International Wine Tourism Conference.  Below is a beautiful video posted by Anthony Swift at Wine Pleasures.

Stay tuned for posts about the people, food and wine of Georgia! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Top 9 Wines From Lazio

Malvasia Puntinata is an indigenous Lazio wine grape

To celebrate the redesign of our website that focuses on Rome and Lazio wine, food and culture, I've put together a new Top 9 post on my favorite wines from Lazio. We are now offering new wine tours and excursions which focus on the enogastronomic and cultural treasures of Lazio. Lazio has a abundance of indigenous grape varieties, unique terroir and an incredible amount of culture. We have a Lazio Wine Seminar and new excursions from Rome, including a visit to a very unique natural wine producer. Here are my picks. Please check out the new website and let us know what you think. 

Olevano Romano is a short drive from Rome and offers history, wine and great food

The Cesanese wine grape is indigenous to Lazio

Top 9 Wine Picks from Lazio

  1. La Visciola- This biodynamic producer makes my favorite Cesanese del Piglio. They produce a few different bottles from small plots of land. The entire production is tiny! If you want to experience the essence of Piglio and especially the Cesanese grape, choose their wine. Natural wine enthusiasts will not be disappointed. They are very low intervention in the cellar and use ambient yeast for fermentation. The wines are well made, structured and in some cases improve with age. If you love “Orange wine” try the Donna Rosa. It is made from Passerina Frusinate and had skin contact for 12 hours. No website available.
  2. Damiano Ciolli-He produces two wines, both made from the Cesanese grape. The Silene is the simpler of the two and perfectly expresses the wine grape. The fermentation occurs in cement tanks. Since 2011, Damiano Ciolli has completely abandoned barriques and is now aging the more “important” Cirsium in large oak barrels. His wines are more refined than most wines of the area and express the volcanic origin of the soil, as well as the potential of the Cesanese.
  3. Castel de Paolis-If you had to pick one of the many producers of Frascati Superiore, Castel de Paolis would be a good choice. They produce what I consider to be the benchmark Frascati against which all other Frascati should be measured. They are aromatic, fresh and express the volcanic soil from which the vines grow.
  4. Le Coste-Gian Marco is a radical wine grower, a true vigneron, and Lazio's answer to the natural wine movement not only because his wines are so different but because of the deeply personal philosophy from which they are born.No website available.
  5. Sergio Mottura-Makes a beautiful range of fresh and mineral whites made from 100% Grecchetto. They are elegant and often have saline notes as well as wonderful mineral tones. The wines are very well balanced and quite food-friendly. The cellar is dug out of volcanic tuff stone, which explains the high levels of minerals in the wines.
  6. Marco Carpineti-I love that this organic winery in Cori grows only indigenous grapes. I am especially fond of their whites and the passito, Ludum, which is made from 100% Arciprete (bellone) wine grapes.
  7. Falesco-I quite enjoy their methodo classico brut sparkling made from 100% Roscetto wine grapes. Roscetto is a rare, low yielding wine grape from Northern Lazio that almost went extinct and has traditionally been used as part of the blend for the historically interesting wine Est! Est!! Est!!! This lovely spumante has classic bread and toast aromas as well as mineral, fruit and floral notes. It's a lovely spumante to start a celebratory dinner with.
  8. Fiorano- The greatest white wines ever made, and I have had a few now. I can say they produce some of the best (and more elusive) wines I have ever tasted. Good luck ever finding any, production from the original prince stopped in 1995.  The Tenuta di Fiorano is now making wines, but reviews are mixed.  
  9. Roèt-The 100% Malvasia Puttinata, made by Roberto and Ettore, is a true vino contadino I drink almost every day. Each sip reminds me that wine has its roots in the land and that sometimes we wine people need to take a breath and relax. Wine snobs should stay clear; this recommendation is for true lovers of natural farm wines.

    This list is not in order and is not a complete list of Lazio's wine. 

    many of these wines can be found HERE 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Antiqua Tours in Tbilisi, Georgia

Photo courtesy of Anthony Swift at Wine Pleasures

At the end of March, I will be speaking at the 6th Annual International Wine Tourism Conference which will be held in the beautiful city of Tbilisi, Georgia 29-30 March, 2014. I will be speaking about the culture of wine, wine as culture, and the people who make the wine integral to this very special culture. I hope to demonstrate to my audience how people in wine tourism can/should include the overall history and culture of a region as a selling point for their wine tours, especially in unknown or unfamiliar regions. Wine-loving clients have often already been to wineries and want to experience something unique. After a while something many of us experience is something I call, “barrel overload.” Yes, technical questions are important, but what makes a winery special is often its relevance in the culture or its history. Except for a few tweaks here and there, most wineries start to look and feel the same. So what can we do differently?

I am going to discuss these points and hope to relay the information as a Socratic seminar rather than lecture about what I think people should do. I plan to talk specifically about the region I am passionate about: Lazio as a wine region. Lazio has a wealth of indigenous grape varieties, terroir, and an incredible number of traditions surrounding wine. My talk will integrate points about both the culture of wine and wine as culture with Lazio epitomizing a region overlooked for its incredible wine potential and wine heritage for the sake of a major city, Rome.

I am also excited to meet colleagues and learn how I can improve our services for Antiqua Tours guests. After all, our guests are usually on holiday and at the end of the day, all they want is to experience fantastic wine, food, and culture.

If you are attending the conference, please stop by my seminar. From the conference programme:

Wine as Culture
An overview of the importance of local cultural heritage in visiting a wine region. Case Study of Lazio. We will discuss why the humanities and people of a region as important to experiencing a wine region as the vines and wines themselves. People as Terroir (wine makers, local farmers, visiting nearby towns) and as an example we will talk about the Lazio wine region and getting visitors beyond Rome for a well rounded cultural experience which includes people, wine, food and cultural heritage. Why wine is not enough in wine tours. Learn why cultural heritage can sometimes sell wine regions, especially in unknown regions. And most importantly: Be a cultural ambassador to your region!

March 29, Session 1.4 at 16:00 in Queen Tamar

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Top 9 of 2013

Well, another year has passed and it seems fitting to list some of my top wine, craft beer and food moments of 2013. Studies and the success of sites like BuzzFeed show that people respond positively to lists, so I have decided to end 2013 with a new feature on my blog, and that is The Top 9. Why 9 and not some other arbitrary number? The obvious reason is my love of cats and the fact that they have 9 lives, so 9 it is.

A tasting of fortified wines during a WSET class
9.  Discovering I actually love dry Sherries like Fino and Manzanilla. Actually considering my love of rotten, fermented food and my passion for Kombucha brewing, lacto-fermentation and yeast in general, it is no wonder I have a newfound appreciation for FLOR, which infuses wonderful nutty notes to these often salty wines that are perfect with olives (another lacto-fermented food I make).

GianMarco and his lovely dirt
8.  Visiting one of my favorite Laziale wine producer's for Katie Parla's birthday. Gianmarco Antonuzi of Le Coste gave us an in-depth tour of his vineyards, showing us the health and life of the soil, the young bush trained vines and then taking us to the cellar where we tasted many different wines from the barrel for about two hours. Gianmarco can easily be described as a wine anarchist and a hardcore naturalist. No compromising, ever. Lazio is a region of incredible potential, and Gianmarco is the poster child of natural wine making in Lazio if not all of Italy. A true visionary. 
Umbria wine Master class with Patrick Farrell, MD, MW
7.  Participating in the first #winelover anniversary wine weekend over Valentine's weekend in Umbria. We tasted some interesting wines and I met a great group of people that share a passion for wine. Cool wine friends are always welcome!
Picking grapes, 2013
6.  Participating in my third grape harvest and helping make Roèt.  Since Roèt is essentially a field blend it is difficult to say how much of each variety is in the wine. This year, as I picked grapes, I got to know each grape and was able to identify them.  This still doesn't help me with my next-to-zero math skills.

Flora and my favorite beer
5.  Finally getting over my hatred of hipsters in San Diego and embracing the craft beer scene thanks to my best friend Hanna. We enjoyed amazing raw, unfiltered sour beer from all over the West Coast. My favorites came from California wine making region the Russian River Valley and Oregon. Another thing I discovered- in beer- Brettanomyces is delicious. My favorite beer on sour beer night was the Logston Seizoen Brett Farmhouse Ale from Oregon. I could drink this beer for days. 
4.  Launching The Rome Digest in March with Gina, Irene, Katie and Hande. It has been an extremely positive experience and feedback from the community has been great. Along with launching TRD, we spoke on blog collaboration at the Digital Wine CommunicationsConference in Spain, which was, of course, a huge honor. 
Soul mates?
3.  Meeting and bonding with Dora and Patrizia of Poderi Sanguineto I and II. Not only do they make wonderful, earthy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, they are real people. They make honest, traditional Tuscan wines which are a rarity amoung today's overly-polished wines of the region. They also have dozens of cats and Patrizia and I bonded over our great love of cats. She offered me a cat and introduced me to her favorite queen, a very old and noble lady. I fell in love with these endearing women.

Kopke's 1940 Colheita Tawny Port
2.  Port wine. We were chosen to participate in a press trip host by Greengrape through the Douro Valley in October pre dwcc with some fellow delegates. What can I say? I fell in love. Vinho Verde, Port Wine, Douro Doc are all fantastic. The Douro Valley is a place of extreme beauty, ancient history, gorgeous wine and unique terrior. I had the opportunity to taste many different types of port from Vintage to Ruby to LBV to Tawny to the benchmark 2011. The look like jewels in a glass. The most incredible wine I tasted during our trip in Portugal was Kopke's 1940 Colheita Tawny Port. (An entire post will be dedicated to this trip) This is a special edition wine to celebrate 375 years of the oldest Port Wine House. Only 375 bottles were produced. It was an ethereal and delicious moment.

My love...

1.  And last but not least, it should be no surprise for those who have joined the cult of Fiorano. My number one wine, food or beer moment of 2013 was at my birthday dinner. Ettore and I shared a 1975 Fiorano Semillon Vino da Tavola. These wines are the world's greatest wines and fairly unknown except to a few crazy cultish people. Another great example of the incredible potential of Lazio as a wine making region. Let's get beyond cheap Frascati in 2014!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Grapes and Grandfathers

Damiano Ciolli in his element

I have not been a particularly active blogger in the past few months despite attending many interesting tastings, several visits to wineries throughout central Italy, participating in a press trip to Port and the Douro Valley and falling in love with the wines and people of Portugal (especially port wine!) attending and speaking on a panel at the Digital Wine Communications Conference  in Logroño, Spain. What can I say? Paid work and real life have made time precious and stories and ideas fade. But there are themes. A lot of them have to do with the importance of wine grapes, biodiversity and people are important themes right now and many important and talented wine writers and bloggers have dedicated hours of research and time to them. At the dwcc I was fortunately enough to be able to attend the Native Iberian Varieties Grand Tasting led by Julia Harding MW and grape geneticist Dr. Jose Vouillamoz, co-authors-along with Jancis Robinson-of the wine tome, Wine Grapes.
Like nearly any field on earth, the trade includes a lot of networking. I find this part of wine very tedious when not in the field or with wine makers. There are lot of people with a lot to say, but I think these old producers in out-of-the-way locations have the most to say, even if they don't say a lot.
Recently I attending a natural wine dinner with the rest of my colleagues at The Rome Digest and we ran into wine maker Damiano Ciolli. He is such a nice salt-of-the-earth guy and has the heaviest ciociaria accent I have ever heard. He makes two different types of wines, both made from Lazio's autochthonous grape Cesanese. To be honest, he looked kind of bored and a little bit like a fish out of water. I have seen this a lot lately. We take clients to small wineries, or I join a group of wine professionals and visit wineries or go to tastings and people are making a big fuss over the wine makers. Of course they merit a fuss. They make our beloved beverage. But I often see the confusion in their eyes. Eyes that say, “It's just wine.” But perhaps they don't understand how we can admire a person who didn't rip out his grandfather's vineyard of mixed local varieties to plant Merlot.  I meet old farmers all the time who have no idea what is growing in their vineyard. They are just doing what has always been done in old communities.
On our way out of the natural wine dinner, we ran into Damiano who seemed to be hiding outside despite the cold. I think he said one of the wisest things I have heard anyone say in the past few months:

I am just doing what my grandfather did.

Indeed. More to come on that in the near future. 

Local Laziale Wine Grape Cesanese