Chiara Boschis: First Lady of Barolo @winestories

Chiara VignaChiara Boschis in her family’s vineyards.  Photo by Mauro Fermariello

My favorite Italian wine writer to follow is Mauro Fermariello.  His website, Winestories, is a passionate and carefully curated collection of just that: Wine Stories. Recently he posted his experience with Chiara Boschis, along with this lovely quote from the First Lady of Barolo herself:

 “From my generation in Barolo, I was the first woman to really direct a winery.  Now it is normal for girls to work in the wineries, but even in the early ’90′s I was an exception to the rule.  The women of the Langhe have always been the strongest links of the families, occupying themselves in all aspects of family affairs, even sometimes financially; all too often the men wasted their money in a night of card games.  Women were also valuable in the vineyards- capable and fast.  Eventually there were women who dedicated themselves to public relations, administration and sometimes sales; but in the cellar, no, I was the only one.


Cannubi 2007, photo by Mauro Fermariello.

We lovingly refer to Chiara as the ‘First Lady of Barolo”.  Now you understand why.  It’s easy to take the status quo for granted- today it is common for women to make wine, own wineries, inherit family estates, and complete an education in oenology. However if you go back 50 or 60 years, this was not the case.  Traditional gender roles in Italy (and elsewhere) would have prevented this possibility.

Cannubi Vigna

Chiara Boschis’ vineyards, Photo by Mauro Fermariello.

Somebody had to break the mold, and forge a new definition of “normal”.  Thank you, Chiara Boschis, for your bravery, your fortitude and your unique ability to change the whole world, even just a little bit, for the better.

Bravissima, Prima Donna del Barolo!

*See the whole article, with interview (in Italian):


The DOCG You Didn’t Know Existed… @Montelvini

AsoloI picked up this bottle of Prosecco from Venegazzù Montelvini and studied the label carefully.  “DOCG Asolo” was written clearly, and yet, Italian Wine Geek that I am, I could not tell you that I had ever tasted a wine from this DOCG before.  A little digging revealed the reason- Asolo produces only 125,000 cases of DOCG Asolo Prosecco each year- compared to Conegliano-Valdobiadenne’s nearly 8 million cases of DOCG Prosecco!  Asolo DOCG

As you can see (in red above), Asolo sits just south of Conegliano- Valdobiadenne, and is much smaller.  Both DOCGs are surrounded by a (bubbly) sea of Prosecco, from the rest of the DOC zones.  As far as I understand, all Prosecco from the DOCGs and DOCs must be made with 100% Glera grapes.  It is the individual vineyards’ terroir and expositions that truly sets each bottling apart.Famiglia Serena

La Famiglia Serena… in vigna.

Venegazzù Montelvini is very recently being sold in the US- the Serena family has only found distribution here since 2013- but if the American thirst for Prosecco is any indication, I am sure they will be met with great success.  This bottle of bubbles was simply delicious!Mugsy loves the bubbles

The first thing I noticed, as soon as I popped the cork, was the explosion of aromatics- even before I poured the wine in the glass I could smell the ripe pears and yellow apples that are trademarks for great Prosecco.


Wines like this are perfect apperitivi wines- to go with little snacks and appetizers, also known as stuzzichini.  The bubbles are fine and frothy- celebratory and just plain fun to drink.  A wine like this, with such structure and balanced acidity, can also hold up to a sturdy dinner- even grilled steak and quinoa!

Diapositiva9 - Copia

Photo of Asolo- Land of Prosecco

I have never visited the production areas for Prosecco, but thanks to images like this photo of Asolo, it is high on my list of places to see.  I love sparkling wines and I drink them all the time. When there are so many terrible imitation-proseccos in the great sea of wine available to the American consumer, it is always a joy to find one like Venegazzù Montelvini that rings true of terroir and hand-crafted passion.

Thank you, famiglia Serena, for teaching us all a little bit more about what we affectionately call Proseccoland, and thank you for fighting the good (bubbly) fight.

Viva Asolo DOCG!


A Few More Things to Love About Italia…

Tre Amici

Allison Amato, Luciano Brussolo (a Real Italian) and me…

Italy is a complicated place: quintessential Beautiful Chaos.  It’s full of people who are passionate, messy, political, religious, scandalous and sometimes just a little crazy.  But they’re magnificent and compelling, too.  Italy is defined by its precious embrace of tradition, history, art and human expression.  There is a reason so much of the world is fascinated with Italy!   In times of so much bad political press within the wine world of Italy, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the beautiful things as well.

My friend Allison Amato (another card-carrying member of the Italian-American Club) sent me a link to this short video created by the Perennial Plate and I just had to share it…

If you have 4 minutes, check it out.  I’d bet you’ll want to go see Bella Italia in person, too.

She’s waiting for you!


Everybody wants to be Italian. @LeMetroWine @TheWineDad

Special Delivery

Special Delivery:  It’s a happy day when this shows up on your front porch!

I was really flattered when my friend Aaron Epstein asked me to help him with a project he started a few months ago: Le Metro. Wine. Underground.  Every month he sends out a 6-bottle package of carefully curated wines to his small (but Wakagrowing) group of consumers.  Weird, wacky wines.  Tasty and surprisingly affordable finds.  New.  Fresh.  Inspiring!

Subscribers receive the wines each shipment, along with a beautiful piece of artwork filled with Aaron’s  notes on the wines, the winemakers, and the terroir of the wineries.  The other side of the poster (which arrives artfully tucked into a record sleeve-holder) is filled with an info-graphic designed by the queen of graphic wine education herself, Elaine Chukan Brown.

This isn’t your daddy’s wine club. Continue reading

The Story of Barbaresco and the Feather. @Luisa_Rocca @winehouseLA

My Lucky Day @Luisa_Rocca


My Lucky Day…

I climbed the stairs to the tasting area at the Wine House yesterday morning for my appointment with the legendary Lance Montalto (Italian Wine Yoda), and had to do a double-take.  There in front of me was this priceless lineup of Bruno Rocca wines, sitting casually on the bar.  And in front of the bar were standing… Francesco and Luisa Rocca!Vendita!

Francesco and Luisa Rocca, flanking their importer Aaron Ainsworth.

For normal people maybe this doesn’t seem like an especially crazy occurrence. However, for an Italian Wine Geek, this is kind of like running into Bob Dylan at your corner coffee shop… or bumping elbows with Prince Charles at the checkout line while grabbing your groceries.  Seriously.  Italian Wine-making Royalty.  Even after 10 years selling Italian wine, I admit I was more than a little starstruck!Francesco Rocca

Francesco Rocca

It was particularly emotional to taste the wines with Francesco guiding me through.  The 2008 Rabaja was truly stunning, and the 2010s across the board are RIDICULOUS.  These wines are all about finesse.  Fragrant and nuanced- they smell like the stunning hillsides of Piemonte look.  A feast for the senses.  Elegant tannins, super high-toned minerality and punctuated acidity.  They need time in the bottle to develop- they need time in your glass to open like the perfect rosebuds they are.  God, I love Nebbiolo.Luisa Rocca

Luisa Rocca

Francesco and Luisa told me the story of the feather on the label (la piuma), which I have always loved to see on the shelves of various stores and wine shops.  He said his father wanted a label that stood out form the rest- most of them being dominated by sketches of their estates, or of the rolling hillside vineyard landscapes common in Piemonte.  Bruno Rocca also wanted a symbol for the enduring life of the wine in the bottle.  A picture that could capture the endless preservation of that particular year in each bottle.

What could be more permanent than the power of the written word?  The feather- symbol for flight, and for the ancient Italian scribes- was the perfect emblem. Dante Paradiso

Immortal Dante in Paradiso (Fresco by Philipp Viet)

This in no small way reminds me of the allusion towards feathers and writers and immortality found in Dante’s own name.  Alighieri.  Ali-ghieri.  “Ali“, meaning “wings” in Italian, not inconsequentially made of feathers- for me always represented both the author’s ability to fly.  To transport himself away from the mundane and the prosaic, towards eternity through his pen- also made from a single feather.

If humanity’s stretch towards eternity is possible with words, then why not with wine?

The Bottle of Sangiovese that Changed My Life. @Monteraponi @AISelections


Michele Braganti is coming to Los Angeles next week.  This makes me so happy- it feels like coming full-circle after a very tough (almost!) year of learning a new business, studying new wineries and wines and working with a new company.

Monteraponi was the lynch-pin for me in this new adventure with AI Selections.  The Sangiovese the made me see the light in my decision to work with a smaller importer, with more niche products and family-operated wineries.  I remember clearly upon tasting the Monteraponi wines about this time last year my thoughts were, “OK, I’m convinced.”

Thank goodness for that!

——————– Reblogged from August, 2013 ——————–
Michele Braganti's Girls

Michele Braganti with Joanie and Jennifer DiDomizio.

About a year ago I was deep in discussion with AI Selections, the awesome little importer for whom I now sell wine in southern California.  At the time I had a job I loved working for another larger, much more established company.  I had (and still have) many dear friends as a result of my last position. This made it a tough decision when AI Selections offered me a job.  I remember I went to meet with Jay Latham in Venice Beach to discuss the possibility of working with their company.  As much as I liked the idea, at the end of our discussion I still wasn’t convinced it was the right move to make.  But then Michele Braganti and Alessandra Deiana arrived… Continue reading

Un Colpo di Fulmine @iClivi

RBL @iclivi


Sparkling Ribolla Gialla from I Clivi: lightening-like acidity!

“Un colpo di fulmine” translates to “a bolt of lightening”.  That’s exactly what the electrifying white wines of I Clivi bring to mind.  I had the great fortune to meet up with Mario Zanusso, proprietor of I Clivi, yesterday at Républiquein Los Angeles.  What a beautiful backdrop for tasting these gorgeous wines!

I Clivi Fans

I Clivi Fan Club: Dan Pirelli, Andrea Scuto, Oliver McCrum,Mario Zanusso, Alex Tugurian & Taylor Parsons @republiqueLA

The wines are magic.  Natural in the most common-sense kind of way.  Why would you mess around with chemicals and wood when you live in the perfect place to grow indigenous grapes like Ribolla, Friulano and Verduzzo?  Nature gives them everything they need to create inspiring and balanced wines without really any technology.  No filtering, no barrels, no added yeasts or enzymes.  What do they put in the bottles?  Pure grape juice, spilling over with terroir.


Mario Zanusso

I Clivi’s vineyards are situated on the water-facing slopes of the first range of hills rising from the south across the D.O.C. “Collio” and the D.O.C. “Colli Orientali del Friuli” districts, on the northeastern rim of the Adriatic Sea. Friuli at its finest!

The vineyards cover only 12 hectares.  Soil composition is a mixture of limestone, clay and sandstone.  A small piece of grape-growing heaven.Friulano

Friulano “San Pietro”

The Friulano from the “San Pietro area is appropriately named.  Although San Pietro could be translated to “St. Peter”, it also recalls that “Pietro” comes from “pietra” or “stone”.  Stony is definitely an appropriate descriptor for this crispy, mineral white wine.  The finish goes on forever, punctuated by acidity that jumps around in your mouth- begging for some prosciutto or a bit of cheese.


Verduzzo, another rare and unknown grape, makes a wildly aromatic appearance here.  If you see this wine, buy it. An example of Friuli’s wild side- herbaceous and showy on the nose with a spinal cord of of pure minerality running up the back.


These are wines that inspire conversations around tradition, local foods and recipes, terroir, geography and soil composition.  This place must be so special, so unique, so singular. You can taste it!  How else do you find this kind of layered elegance and impressive acidity into a bottle of wine?  The answer is always: the land, and its people.

140 Months


My clear favorite in the lineup was a special bottling of Friulano from the Brazan vineyards.  The grapes were harvested in 2001, and the wine has spent almost the last 12 years sitting under its own lees, waiting patiently for this moment to shine.  Complex and beguiling.  This wine is an unsuspectingly beautiful woman, kind of like the Mona Lisa.  You can’t stop staring at her face, wondering what is it exactly that continues to captivate.  You can’t keep your nose out of the glass.  Mineral, preserved lemons, wet grass, forest floor: a rush of aromatic sensations that end with a sigh of pure pleasure when you actually taste.

A masterpiece.  Grazie, Mario!