Friday, January 12, 2024

Kevin Zraly on Brunello



I've been involved with Italian Wine for more than 30 years now. I love Italian Wine, Venice, and Wine Bars so much that I created the first Venetian Wine Bar (Bacaro) in America. I named it Bar Cichetti. As a result of opening Bar Cichetti in Greenwich Village, New York, I got more deeply into Italian Wine, and got to know many of Italy's top wine producers. Once I opened Bar Cichetti, every Italian Wine person coming to New York wanted to meet me, and see Bar Cichetti. The first people I met, were the Conti Caponi of Villa Calcinaia, who produced beautiful Chinati, and Olive Oil in Greve, in Chianti. I actually met the Noble Florentines, Nicola and Sebastiano Caponi, and had lunch with them at their beautiful estate in Greve. We actually had to meet upo with the two brothers at their family Palazzo in Florence, next to the Ponte Vecchio, and then we drove to Greve, to Villa Calcinaia. They showed us around the cellars and the vineyards and then we sat down to an incredible lunch with Nicola & Sebastiano Caponi in the beautiful old dining room in the castle. It was amazing to say the least.

After our amazing visit with the two Counts, we drove down to the next town, Panzano to meet up with Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi, one of Tuscany's top Super Tuscan and Chianti producers. It was an amazing day, and the most wonderful introduction to Italian Wines, at the estates, with the said owners. A day I shall never forget. 

Well, I've gotta off the track a bit. As usual. But to make a point. The point being that because of the position I created, becoming one of New York's top Italian Wine Guys, as they say, I was invited to many exclusive wine events, such as Luncheons, Dinners, seminars, and special tastings.
Some of the most notable occasions I found myself in, were : the previously mentioned luncheon with the two Caponi brothers at Villa Calcinaia, a luncheon at Barolo Restaurant in NY with Antonella Boccino of Contratto, a special Dinner at Becco with Sebastiano Rosa of Sassicaia fame, lunch with Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare, a vertical tasting of 5 vintages of Tiganello with the Marchese Piero Antinori at Bottega del Vino in New York, an incrediable Dinner with Jacapo Biondi Sante of Biondi Sante, at Spark's Steak House in New York, gorging on Baked Clams and Steak, while downing some of the World's Best Brunello, Super Tuscan, and Moscadello wine. The list goes on and on, and is far to long to write about here.

So again, I've gone to many memorable Italian Wine Events over the years. I have touched on a few, and another I wrote about a few years back. It was a Brunello Seminar Tasting conducted by the Great Kevin Zraly (Wine Educator) at the 2013 Brunello Tasting, at Gotham Hall in New York City. I had heard about Kevin, but never met him before. We tasted some great Brunello that day, and along with the great Brunello's we tasted, the other star of the show, was Mr. Kevin Zraly himself. He has his own wonderful style of talking about wine, and the way he conducts his seminars is Entertaining, Educational, and Mind Blowing. I absolutley loved the show.

I came across a little piece that I wrote the next day, and thought I'd repost it. It follows below. Please read it.


January 12, 2024

Villa Calcinaia

Greve in Chianti


by Daniel Bellino Zwicke, written - January 2013, New York City

The Great Kevin Zraly held a Brunello Seminar at The New York Brunello Tasting 2013 ...And for the few lucky enough to attend, it was quite a great event. Great, yes great, and Mr. Keven Zraly in my book is quite great when it comes to knowledge of wine, his Love and approach to it, drinking, tasting for his own pleasure and knowledge as well as the Drinking, Tasting, and Education Kevin imparts on those in his classes, readers and owners of his famed Windows On The World Wine Course (Book), and anyone as I've Just said "Lucky Enough to Attend One of Mr. Zraly's Wine Seminars," in this case for one of Italy's and The World's most esteemed wines and one of Kevin's 3 Favorite Wines (Kevin's words) Brunello di Montalcino.

   "Don't Touch It! Don't touch it !!!" shouts Kevin Zraly, near the beginning of his seminar. He know there are always people on every level of experience at any one of the many wine seminars he has conducted over the years, including the most experienced and at least one or maybe several people who have never ever been to a Seminar Wine Tasting like this in their lives. This maybe their first one, "Don't Touch Don't touch!!!" It's quite funny and a bit shocking the way Kevin does these as he sets the tone for his style of wine seminar, which is "No Muss No Fuss No BS," and as Mr. Zraly says no English Poetry, in an effort to say there will be none of that overdone pontification, just straight normal talk, and talk even a beginner could grasp about wine, and with Kevin his approach will make you love the object and the subject of "Wine" even more. That's what a great wine educator does. There are not many better than Kevin Zraly, "if any?"
Yes, the seminar was quite wonderful. If being at the most important Brunello Tasting of the year wasn't enough, and being the first in the World to taste the 2008 Vintage and 07 Riservas, in a beautiful setting like Gotham Hall, in The Greatest City in The World, and as the Head of The Brunello Consorzio stated this glorious day, "New York Is The Greatest and Most Important Market in The World For The Producers of Brunello di Montalcino." Yes Sir "It Is." Yes those at The New York Brunello Tasting were among-st the first in the World to taste these fine wines, and Mr.s Zraly made that point, as well as stating how wonderful the Wines were, that we were very fortunate to be drinking them, and that Brunello was along with Bordeaux, one of his 3 Favorite wines in the World to drink. Myself and Michael Colameco (Who is The fine host of "Real Food" one of TV's Best Cooking Shows on PBS) sitting next to me at the seminar, we both surmised the third  of Kevin's 3 Favorite Wines of The World had to be Burgundy. This we need to find out.

    "Smell it 3 times. Cover the glass with your hand. Sniff! Toast the person sitting next to you and drink. Think about it for 1 minute at 15 second intervals. Do you still taste it? What do you taste?" Well, we tasted 8 very fine offerings of this fabulous wine, Brunello di Montalcino. The wines were all wonderful, and being at Benvenuto Brunello in such a gorgeous setting as Gotham Hall and being led in a Tasting of Great Brunello by one of the World's Greatest Authorities on Wine, this was a combination that was unbeatable. Being in the Italian Wine and Restaurant Business for more than 25 and writing for another 8, I can tell your that I've been to many a incredible wine event, like: a Vertical Wine tasting and Luncheon with the Marchese Piero Antinori, Dinner at Spark's Steak-House with Jacopo Biondi Santi and his wines, as well as lunches and dinners on many great wine estates in Italy. The kind of events people would kill to be able to attend, I've been to many, and this Brunello Seminar tasting with kevin Zraly shall be filed in my head with some of those other great wine moments. It was most enjoyable, and I'm so glad I made it (almost din't go).

   So Bravo Brunello! And Bravo Kevin for your passion, love of the wine, and the way you lead others, in your very Zraly Direction.

Daniel Bellino Zwicke

BRUNELLO SEMINAR with KEVEN ZRALY .. January 31, 2013 .... Afternoon Seminar


1.   Palazzo - 2008
2.   Fanti -2008
3.   Tenute Sivio Nardi - 2008
4.   Donatella Cinelli Colombini - 2008
5.   Uccelliera - 2008
6.   Palazzo - Riserva 2004
7.   Col D'Orcia 2001
8.   IL Poggione Riserva 1999

An overall assessment and thoughts on the 8 Brunello's we tasted. First off, they were all very good to wonderful to remarkable. A great line-up including some excellent producers and very fine vintages of recent years. It seemed an overall consensus that pretty much everyone (Writers, Restaurant People, Wine Professionals, and Hobbyists) in the room liked each and every wine we drank, all wonderful wines, and with Kevin "Cheer-Leading" us with his love of wine and Brunello, I believe everyone enjoyed these wines even more than if they had tasted all 8 in another manner than this great tasting-seminar.

   As all wines were wonderful, I must admit that there were 3 wines that we all got a bit more excited and super-charged over. These wines were; the Brunello Uccelliera 2008, the Brunello Col D'Orcia 2001, and the Brunello IL Poggione 1999 ... Without going into any, as Kevin Zraly would say "English Poetry" these 3 wines were just wonderful. The kind of wines you light up over and just saying "Wow," is enough to say that they had everything you want in a great Brunello or any great wine, great aroma, Wonderful Taste combined with "Perfect Balance," and simply greatness.

   Again, a great tasting, overall Benvenuto Brunello, lots of great wines, wonderful people, and a fine Seminar-Tasting of Brunello conducted by Mr. Kevin Zraly. Again, Bravo!


Brunello Time in New York! Hey I think i just coined a new phrase for our great city New York.   Yes I know it can never catch on like the poetic "Autumn in New York" ... Autumn in New York, the phrase started as a song in 1937, a song that became quite famous and sung by many musical greats like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitgerald to name just two. The phrase has been made into a movie, and tough it has been a hugely successful song, it's greatest popularity and famed comes as a "Saying" and Slogan of The Great City of New York, "Autumn in New York." Brunello Time in New York. No it will never be as famed as the Autumn of New York, but if you're as big as an Italian Wine Geek and Lover like me, this phrase Brunello Time in New York will sound quite wonderful to you. 

    Yes, yesterday, January 31, 2013 was Brunello Time in New York with for all us Italian Wine Guys (Girls too), one of our biggest and most cherished days of the year, The New York Italian Wine Year anyway. It is the Brunello Tasting, as we New York Wine Guys call it. The official named used by The Consorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino, the governing body of the famed Italian Wine Brunello, these are the people who organize this great show and tasting of the release of the latest vintage of Brunello, the tasting officially known as Benvenuto Brunello.

  As I said, this tasting (event) is one of the most dear of the year to me. That is along with the 
Tri Bicchieri Tasting, the biggest of the year. The Brunello Tasting is quite dear to me, as Sangiovese is my favorite of all grapes, as are the great wines made of it, especially Chianti and Brunello, my favorites, along with Morellino de Scansano, Vino Nobile, and some Super Tuscans that are based on this noble grape Sangiovese. And speaking of Sngiovese and Brunello, the wine Brunello is made of 100% Sangiovese, and of Snagiovese Grosso, also known as Brunello. And Brunello can only be made in Montalcino, and no-where else in the World, and it must be made to the exacting standards of The Consorzio del Brunello Di Montalcino, of whose President was on hand for the event.

    The event "The Brunello Tasting" consist of 52 of the more than 200 producers of Brunello. The main reason for this Brunello Tasting is the "Release of The Newest Vintage of Brunello di Montalcino," in this case The 2013 Brunello Tasting is for the Release of The 2008 Brunello's and The 2007 Brunello Riservas. These are the two main wines of the tasting, but other wines are shown and offered, along with Moscadello the famed Dessert Wine of Montalcino based on Moscato. All producers will have on hand their Rosso di Montalcino made with the same grapes (100% Sangiovese Grosso "Brunello") as the Brunello. The Rosso's are not aged as long, and the grape yeild is slighly higher. The 2010 Rosso di Montalcino where on hand, and one of the nice things about drinking these Rossos is that you can get an advanced glimpse of what the 2010 Brunello's will be like when they are released in 2016.

     Well, some Big Guns of Italian Wine were out at the Brunello Tasting. Big Guns from Italy along with some Big New York Italian Wine Guys like; Renzo Raspiacolli (Wine Director Barolo), Phillipo Debarladino, and Charles Scicolone, one of America's Greatest Authorities of Italian Wine "If Not Thee # 1 Top Guy." And speaking of Big Guns, as far as Italian Wine goes, The Biggest Gun of Them All, "The Marchese Piero Antinori" was on hand at this, one, along with The Count Cinzano of Col d'Orcia and other Italian Wine luminaries.

Daniel Bellino-Zwicke






Author Daniel Bellino Zwicke

Lunch with The CONTI CAPONI




Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Tre Bicchierei New York 2024


New York

February23, 2024

"Got My Tickets" !!! 

It's that time of year again. Time for Tre Bicchieri. What's Tre Bicchieri you want to know? Well, as a metaphor, I myself call it "The Oscars of Italian Wine" in New York. That's what it's like for me. As The Oscars in Hollywood is to a professional movie actor, the greatest most glorious, and Biggest Day of The Year, that is what Tre Bicchieri is to me, an Italian Wine Geek, it is the biggest, most important day of the year. 

Tre Bicchieri is an Italian Wine Tasting of what are considered the Best Italian Wines of the year as are deemed by Gambero Rosso, Italy's most influential Italian Food & Wine Magazine, and the people of Slow Foods. Gambero Rosso awards what they considered the top echelon, best Italian Wines are awarded 3 Glasses (Tre Bicchieri), and considered Italy's best wines for that year. Then there are the Tre Bicchieri Wine Events / Tastings held at a few cities around the World to showcase the wines. Some cities that are lucky enough to have these Tre Bicchieri Tastings, are : New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and Torino.
I myself love this event most, not just for being able drink so many great Italian Wines, but even more to see all my friends from Italy who own wine estates from all Italy. They are at the event and I get to visit with them, taste the latest vintages of their current wines. We -chat, and if I have an up-coming trip to Italy, We might make plans for when I'll visit the, with all their wine estate, perhaps once again, or for the first time, if I haven't been to their winery before. 

It's great being there. All that great Italian Wine, but even more so, all the great Italian Wine people. People like my good friend Antonio Rallo of Donnafugata in Marsala, Sicily, Francesca Planet of Planet Wines also in  Sicily, my pal Luigi Cappellini who makes my favorite Chianti, at his beautiful wine estate Castello Verrazzano in Greve, or his nieghbor the Conti Capponi whose wine estate  Villa Calcinaia is also in Greve, and whose Chianti I love so very much as well. And speaking  Chianti, there's my freind Mr. Giovanni Manetti who not only makes great Chianti and the Super Tuscan Wine Flacianella, but is had of the Chianti Consorzio as well, not to mention that his family makes beautiful terracotta pieces in the factory in Tuscany as well. Yes there will be a lot of wonderful people there, and I hope that I'll see my old buddy Gianpaolo Venica, who along with his father Gianni make some of Italy's greatest white wines in their estate - Venica, in Friuli, Italy. : their Ronco d' Mele Sauvignon Blanc. It's killer."

Along with all my Italian fiends from Italy, I will be able to catch up with my New York Italian Wine Friends, like my old pal Pietro Cavallo, and my pals Angelo R, and Vince V, not to mention all the others.

Yes it's going be a Great Day, drinking great Italian Wine, socializing, and what not. That's Tre Biccheri, a day I long forward til all year long.

Basta !

Daniel Bellino Zwicke











The Chianti is an area or territory bordered by Florence to the north, the Chianti mountains to the east, the city of Siena to the south, and the valleys of the Pesa and Elsa rivers to the west. The area has ancient traditions and a rich history that spans the centuries, from the Etruscans who left many traces of their activities – including the wine sector - to the fortresses and castles that witnessed countless battles, for the proud Republics of Florence and Siena fought for control of the Chianti throughout the Middle Ages.

Many of the fortified villages, monasteries and farmhouses appeared during this period and many were later transformed into villas and country residences when times were more tranquil. Spaces were cleared in the vast forests of chestnuts and oaks for the cultivation of vines and olive trees, activities that transformed the area into the much-loved rolling hills of small parcels of vineyards and groves that can be seen on postcards and calendars featuring Tuscan landscapes.

CHIANTI PRODUCTION Wine production in the Chianti area progressively assumed economic importance and soon established an international reputation; the first notarial document in which the name Chianti appears in reference to the wine produced in the area dates back to 1398 and by the 17th century exports became frequent. As often occurs when a product is highly successful, numerous imitations began to surface over the years and Chianti producers wanted their wine’s name to remain untarnished by lesser quality wines produced elsewhere.

As a result, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III, issued an edict in 1716 in which the boundaries of the Chianti were officially recognized. This was the world's first legal document defining the production zone of a wine!

Unfortunately it proved to be insufficient, since makeshift Chianti continued to appear, so a group of producers finally decided to deal with the problem in 1924 by establishing a voluntary association to defend and promote their authentic wine. The Chianti wine-producing area was delimited in 1932 by ministerial decree and the boundaries have essentially remained unchanged since then. The decree described the district where Chianti Classico is produced as the oldest zone of origin: a wine that can be distinguished from Chiantis created later and produced in areas that are different from the original Chianti territory. The historic production area produces only Chianti Classico wines, which therefore means the first or the original.


Not all wine produced in Chianti is Chianti Classico wine, since the provenance from a determined territory is not sufficient to permit the use of the Chianti Classico appellation. The wine produced must also respect the production code, which gets updated with more stringent rules over time. The first version dates back to 1984, when Chianti Classico was still considered a sub-denomination of the Chianti DOCG, albeit with separate and stricter production rules, with modifications made in 1996, 2002 and, more recently, in 2013 when the “Gran Selezione” was introduced. The production code fills many pages and get quite technical, but the most important include: the minimum percentage of Sangiovese that must be used is 80% and the Sangiovese grape can be used alone; other native red grapes like Canaiolo and Colorino, or international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can also be used (at a maximum ratio of 20%), while no white grapes are permitted (since the 2006 vintage, so older Chianti Classicos may contain a small percentage of Trebbiano or Malvasia). Other rules refer to alcohol content (min. 12% vol. for vintage wine and 12.5% vol. for Riserva) and production guidelines that ensure that a high standard is met: vineyard density and yield (so that the output per vine cannot exceed 3 kg or 6.5 lbs) as well as aging requirements.

Producers have the liberty of making many different production choices, but any consumer can know, that if they are drinking a Chianti Classico Riserva, they are drinking a Sangiovese wine that has aged for at least 2 years! They can also trace the bottle right back to its origins by typing the alphanumerical code on the banderol into the Chianti Classico's traceability system on their website.

Three Types of Chianti Classico

There are now three types of Chianti Classico, the Annata vintage or yearly wine and Riserva wines (that must age for longer and in wood) that are familiar to most, as well as the more-recently introduced Gran Selezione, which offers a higher standard of quality through estate-grown grapes that are selected a priori and longer barrel aging and bottle refinement requirements. The production of these different wines can easily visualized as a pyramid, where the more commonly produced Annata, as a foundation, peaks into the more exclusively produced Gran Selezione.

The Chianti Classico Consortium

Over the years, the organization changed its official name several times and is now known as the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. It has, however, always retained the symbol of the Black Rooster, which has become an essential element of its image and guarantee of quality. As a symbol, it has always identified the Chianti area and although the true origins of this symbol are unknown, it is connected to a fascinating legend about the rivalry between Siena and Florence, who have always contended the Chianti. The Consortium therefore chose that old symbol as a symbol of the quality of their authentic wines. At its inception in 1924, the Consortium had 33 producer-members. The membership has steadily grown and now exceeds 600, of whom 270 bottle wine under their own labels.

The legend of the Black Rooster

A fascinating legend links the Black Rooster with the Siena-Florence rivalry, which characterized the Chianti for centuries. In a bid to end their interminable wars, the two Tuscan cities decided to entrust the definition of their boundaries to an unusual contest between two horsemen. They agreed that the frontier of the two Republics would be drawn at the point where the riders met after setting out at cockcrow from their respective communities. The Sienese selected a fine and much-pampered white rooster, while the Florentines chose a black rooster and gave it so little to eat that on the appointed day, it began to crow long before dawn. As a result, the Florentine rider set out early and met the other horseman at Fonterutoli, only a dozen miles from Siena. For that reason, virtually all of the Chianti Classico area passed into the hands of Florence.

Although the account is just a legend, it is absolutely certain that the profile of a black rooster was the emblem of the historic League of Chianti, which governed the territory from the early years of the 14th century. Giorgio Vasari painted a black rooster on the ceiling of the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence as an allegory of Chianti.

Author Daniel Bellino Zwicke

with Cavalieri Luigi Cappellini of Verrazzano

Drinking Chianti in New York

Chianti Castello Verrazzano

"My favorite Chianti: .... Daniel Bellino Z