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image_4380738_articleAmerica’s first vertical tasting of the fine wines of Podere Sapaio from Bolgheri in Coastal Tuscany took place at my restaurant, Undici Taverna Rustica in Rumson, NJ, this past year. Owner, enologist Massimo Piccin was present and told us, “We are wine. We are men and women winemakers who transform grapes into wine by means of our know-how, our errors and our technology. Wines are like babies: we give them birth, see them grow and take care of them year after year. Man and his knowledge belong to the terroir, just like the sun and the rain, the soil and the vine. Great wines cannot come into being without man’s great passion.” Read on to learn more about Bolgheri, and discover what can be unpacked during a vertical tasting.
Verdoni: My first visit to Bolgheri was in the mid-1960’s, as a part of an Etruscan archaeological dig. The wines of the area were not so important to me or to the world at the time. They were mostly rosés which went well with the local fish. This is the Maremma, the Marittima, the Tuscan Coast. Bolgheri’s wines are not wines of altitude. They are wines of the sea; they are wines of light. The brightness of the zone rivals that of Provence. Bolgheri’s wines reflect that.

Magic has been taking place here ever since the late 1960’s. Today there are DOC’s for excellent white Vermentino, as well as a Bolgheri Rosso. The superstar is Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC. Classic Bordeaux varietals benefit from the temperature variation from day to night. What does a Bolgheri Rossi Superiore taste like? It is not as fruity, oaky as a big California Cab. It has structure, class and style like a great Haut-Medoc. However, where you feel earthiness in the French wine, in the Bolgheri wine you feel sunlight and brightness.
Vic: I first met Massimo Piccin in 2007. My family and I were the guests of Sebastiano Rosa and his wife Elena at the Tenuta San Guido estate (Sassicaia). Being a wine and food junkie, I like to branch out to taste the best local ingredients and the finest wines. Bolgheri is a small, walled village between Grosseto and Livorno, north of Rome and south of Pisa. The castle at the top of the hill in Bolgheri is a mere 8 kilometers from the sea. In this village everyone knows everyone, and word was out that I should meet the new kid on the block, Massimo Piccin of Podere Sapaio.
My GPS instructed me to turn onto a dusty road. After a few curves, we arrived at the estate. Massimo seduced us with a bottle of vintage Champagne and lunch. I was amazed at his humility, charm and dedication. We tasted 2004, 2005 and 2006 Volpolo, and 2004 and 2005 Podere Sapaio Superiore. The wines had depth, character and class. I realized that I had stumbled upon a gem. It was a great tribute that these fine wines were fashioned from vines that were very young.
The Podere Sapaio Estate
Massimo Piccin, an engineer from Veneto, purchased Podere Sapaio in 1999 and planted his first grapes in February of 2000. Podere means “farm” and Sapaio takes its name from the Sapaia grape which used to grow in this area. The farm consists of 25 hectares (about 37 acres) dedicated to the vine. The soil of the vineyards are clay and sand with some limestone. Until the 17th Century this area was a swamp. Podere Sapaio’s illustrious neighbors include Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Grattamacco, Le Macchiole, Guado al Tasso, Michele Satta and Angelo Gaja. Bolgheri is a tiny zone, consisting of about 1,200 hectares (about 1,800 acres). The total production of all 50 or so grower/producers is less than 4,000,000 bottles per year. Massimo Piccin rarely produces more than 100,000 bottles per year, all of which are red.
The Vines
The Sangiovese does not grow well within Bolgheri. It does better farther south in the Scansano area, where it is known as Morellino.
At Podere Sapaio, Massimo Piccin works only with the classic red Bordeaux vines, Cabernet Sauvignon (Uva Francesca), Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot. These and other French varietals have been in Tuscany since the 1700’s. An increase in French plantings took place along the Maremma coast in the early 19th Century, when Napoleon was exiled to the nearby island of Elba.
The Wines
Podere Sapaio produces two wines, both red. Volpolo is a Bolgheri DOC, aged 14 months in barrique and tonneaux and 6 months in the bottle. It is a brilliant wine of great value. The 2012 Volpolo consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. 90,000 bottles were produced.
Sapaio’s Bolgheri Superiore DOC is more important, richer and more age worthy. This noble red is barrel fermented, aged 18 months in barriques and further refined in the bottle for 8 to 10 months before it is released. It usually consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petite Verdot. In some vintages Merlot is added. Emphasis and focus is placed on creating the best blend. At every step Massimo is assisted by world renowned consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini.
The Vertical
Some of the older vintages came directly from the winery or from the personal collection of Victor Rallo. All of the bottles were in pristine condition and showed very well. We feel that you can age Podere Sapaio Bolgheri Superiore DOC red wines comfortably for a decade or more.
Volpolo 2012: This is the current release. Dry, harmonious, still young with lustrous, ruby to purple color. Blueberries, subtle, concentrated. Drink now through 2018.
Podere Sapaio Superiore 2011: Only 10,000 bottles produced. Bottled June 2013. The oak is in balance with the fruit. Drink now, but decant. Hold until 2018-2020. A warm, difficult vintage. The excellence comes from a careful selection.
2010: Balanced and elegant. Will develop for the next 15 years. Good minerality, salinity and fruitiness. A cooler vintage. Deep, blue color. Fragrance of herbs and pencil shavings. Try with steaks and lamb chops.
2009: Unique, most Tuscan. Starting now to evolve. Leathery aspect, like smelling new car leather seats. Fruit and spice and minerality. Drink from now through 2020.
2008: Big, deep, rich, complex. Concentrated with great body. A banner year, 30,000 bottles produced. Some Merlot added. Plummy, ripe. Drink from now through 2020.
2007: Elegant, tannic, sweet in the nose and mouth. Rich, big, bold. Drink from now through 2022. Merlot added.
2006: Powerful, tannic but graceful. Superb structure, opulent. Age this one. Drink from now through 2025. Use of Merlot is judicious. Ripe.
2005: Merlot added. Good acidity and tannins to balance the concentrated dark fruitiness. Drink from now through 2020.
2012: Will be very good, as we can see from tasting the 2012 Volpolo.
2013: This will be an outstanding wine, superior to the 2006.
2014: There may be no Sapaio Superiore, due to a lack of balance in fruit maturation. Superiore juice will probably create a great Volpolo.
Final Note
Massimo Piccin, not realizing that his wines would develop a cult following, gave all of his first vintage – 2004 – away as gifts. Fortunately, one large format – 3 liter bottle – made its way into the hands of a friend, who was kind enough to share it with us. It was excellent, a prelude to things to come. And to think, this classy 2004 was crafted from vines that were less than 5 years old! Grazie, Massimo.

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Talking Amarone with Armando Castagnedi of Tenuta Sant’Antonio

Tenuta Sant’Antonio is working to help people re-understand and to create a new style of Amarone. Victor Rallo Jr. talks with winemaker Armando Castagnedi about the unique process that goes into making Amarone, expectations around Amarone wine, food pairings, and the new, fresh, drinkable style of Amarone.

Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte Vertical Perspective

With Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita

New York Vintners, 21 Warren Street, New York City
February 25, 2012

On February 25, a rainy  day and a ferry ride to Manhattan would take me to New York Vintners on Warren Street in lower Manhattan for a vertical tasting from Italian Winery of the year, Tasca d’Almerita. The tasting would consist of seven vintages of Rosso del Conte 1979, 89, 98, 01, 04, 06,07.

This Sicilian winery dates back to 1830, and Giuseppe Tasca is the 7th generation running the family business. The first bottling of red wine was 1959, and the first bottling of Rosso del Conte was 1970. This wine was named after his grandfather The Count Tasca d’Almerita. This was the wine he liked to drink and he did not care much if anyone else liked the wine. Today Rosso del Conte is regarded as one of the best wines of Sicily and one of the great wines of Italy.

The wine is always made from grapes grown in the single vineyard called “San Lucio.” All of the varieties grown in San Lucio are cultivated in the alberello method which are grapes grown in little bushes. This method is often used in Sicily as the bush protects the grapes from the sun as the grapes sit under the leaves and also protects the grapes from the hot Scirocco winds from Africa.


Nero d’Avola and 10% Perricone.
Very dry year, cold winter, mild spring and very warm summer
Fermentation in cement casks
Aging in chestnut casks
Bottled 1981
14.5 ABV

I love older vintages, they kind of get this dried fruit almost a Marsala effect. This wine still has lively tannins, great structure and still totally intact after 31 years. This wine is excellent and I think it may have a few years left. Giuseppe says there is a lot of bottle variation, as they did not have temperature controlled wine storage until 1982. You should definitely drink it now, and if you get lucky and get a bottle like we tasted today it is like winning the lottery.

Rallomatic Score 94


Nero d’Avola and 10% Perricone
Dry year, cold winter, cool spring, warm summer
Fermentation in cement casks
Aging in 60hl oak casks
Bottled 1991
14.5% ABV

Musty, barnyard in the nose with great color and structure. The wine is very well balanced and harmonious. I always say the best way to learn about wine is to do a vertical tasting. It is often very hard because it is difficult to gather the wines for a vertical, but with the internet it is absolutely possible. Smooth. Elegant and very drinkable. How I would love a braised piece of meat right about now.

Rallomatic Score 92



Nero d’Avola and 10% Perricone
Good rains early, cold winter, mild spring, very warm summer
Fermentation in temperature controlled vats
Aging 12 months in French oak 300 liter barrels, 50%new and 50% second use
Bottled 2000
13.5 % ABV

This wine is very soft and much lighter in style then the prior vintages. But softness with finesse and elegance. Don’t get me wrong, this my be one of my favorites so far as it’s drinking perfect today. Although it is not as powerful, it is delicious. Hints of blueberry a little super ripe dark fruit. Anticipated maturity 2012-2015.

Rallomatic Score 90.



Nero d’Avola and a few plants of Perricone
Rainy early, mild winter, rainy spring, warm summer
Fermentation in temperature controlled vats
Aging 12 months in French oak allier and troncaisand 300 liter tonneaux, 60% new oak 40% second passage
Bottled 2003
14% ABV

All of these wines have great color, this is no exception. The nose is closed but there are hints of greatness, but this wine is very difficult to judge but based on the other wines in the vertical, it should come alive and opened up already. This wine is asleep, it is dormant it has all the characteristics of a great wine but it will not show us today !!!!

Rallomatic score 89+ who knows? Not even Giuseppe.


Nero d’ Avola and a selection of Regaleali’s best grapes
Cold winter, rain during spring, cool and dry summer
Fermentation temperature controlled
18 months in 225 liter French oak barrels 100% new
bottled 2006

The color and clarity of this wine is excellent, the new oak is prevalent, a little to much for my palate. Even though I smell the oak on my tongue the wine is silky smooth and the tannins are balanced with the fruit. Beautiful hints of licorice, ripe blackberries and dark fruits maybe even plums. If I owned this wine I would let’s say 6 bottles I would drink 2 at my next party and one bottle every year there after. Gorgeous wine!!! Anticipated maturity 2014.

Rallomatic score 94



Nero d Avola 55%, Perricone 15%, international varieties 30%
Cold and rainy winter, long dry spring, short rainy summer
Fermentation in temperature controlled vats
Aging18 months in 100% new French oak Allier and Troncais
Bottled 2005
ABV 14%

A little deeper in color then the 2007 vintage, on the first smell I get musty wet leaves probably from the rainy spring. Smooth elegant tannins, with great dark fruit and that persistent long finish. In my estimation I would drink this wine a little sooner, anticipated maturity 2015. What I love about this wine is that you can drink it now. This wine is clearly an international wine as the international varieties have a definite presence.

Rallomatic score 94


Nero d’Avola 75%, Perricone 15%, International varieties 10%
Mild and dry winter, warm and rainy spring, long and temperate summer
Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel
Aging 18 months in French oak Allier and Troncais, 12 months in the bottle prior to release
13.5% ABV

Great ruby color on the first whiff wild strawberries, fresh little and sweet. Still very tannic and as young as a baby, as we might call it in the wine industry. The grapes are all hand picked and Giuseppe told me the tannins in this wine come completely from the skins. Very long persistent finish, this is how I gauge aging potential the longer the better. This wine will best drank at maturity between 2020-2025.

Rallomatic score 93 points.


The Waring Pro Cordless Wine Opener is on

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  • Brushed stainless accents
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  • Removable foil cutter
  • Limited Five Year Motor Warranty

Welcome to

Hello and welcome to! This is the home of the new online wine community and sister site to Watch all our wine reviews, travel videos, video recipes, and read articles from Anthony “The Professor” Verdoni.

You can also connect with on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Here’s the full release on our launch:

Victor Rallo Launches New Online Wine Community

New wine community will educate consumers with reviews, videos and food pairings while offering hand selected Italian wines for purchase at great prices.

(Red Bank, NJ) Victor Rallo, restaurateur, wine aficionado and entrepreneur, launches to create a destination where passion for food, wine and travel is celebrated. Consumers seeking an education on creating the perfect marriage of food and wine will find solace at which features unique video presentations of wine reviews and complementary foods.

Breaking the mold of creating another online “wine store”, Victor Rallo raises the bar by teaming up with wine expert Anthony Verdoni, aka “The Professor”, to feature world class wines and meals that create a harmonious presentation that consumers can replicate at home.

Speaking about the new project, Victor Rallo commented, “Consumers are flooded with choices at their local bottle shop. Often the best buying advice that is provided is a score from a third party website that consumers have to trust. Consumers are looking to raise their education on wine but not as a score. Consumers want to learn how to match a good wine with meals that they can cook in their home. ” will provide the “know how” to prepare great dishes that complement a wine that is featured each week on the website. Weekly videos will feature Rallo and Verdoni as they review the featured wine from different viewpoints; Rallo representing the consumer and likeminded “foodies” and Verdoni representing the structure and flavor profile of the wine. The balance of their perspectives is what makes visiting a worthwhile investment of time.

Each week a wine will be featured on and consumers can purchase the wine at significant savings. The goal of the website is to build an educational foundation for consumers looking to increase their knowledge of wine and food pairing.

To that end, the website will only sell wines that have been personally reviewed by Rallo and received his seal of approval. According to Rallo “Consumers don’t need another online wine store, they need an online wine experience that is practical, helpful and without pretense.”

The first wines to be featured on are the Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2007, and the Agricola Punica Montessu 2007.

For additional information, visit

About Victor Rallo
Growing up in the restaurant business, Victor Rallo is a lifelong expert on food and wine. Both of his restaurants, Basil T’s and Undici Taverna Rustica, have received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence multiple times and Undici boasts the largest all-Italian wine selection in the state of New Jersey.

Victor has mastered the art of pairing food and wine, having visited Italy’s top vineyards and tasted the best in Italian cuisine. During his travels, Victor has befriended many of Italy’s most prominent winemakers including Antonio Caggiano, brothers Andrea and Dario of Pieropan winery, and the maker of the world renowned Sassicaia wine, Sebastiano Rosa. Victor’s travel videos, photos and articles highlight many personal tours, tastings, and even a special visit from Sebastiano Rosa at one of Victor’s restaurants.

Victor also hosts the Accademia del Vino wine lecture series, giving attendees a taste of the wine, cuisine, and culture from a specific region of Italy in each session. Victor brings a unique and practical perspective to the table with his hands-on and forward thinking approach to food and wine.

About Tony Verdoni

Anthony Verdoni’s career is a combination of academic pursuits and business interests. He enrolled in a Doctorate program at Tulane University, having received an A.B. in Curso Classico from Saint Peter’s College in 1964. He eventually returned to St. Peter’s to teach Classical Languages and Literature for 20 years. His knowledge of antiquity and Italian culture helped establish him as an expert in Italian wines. Members of the wine trade call him “The Wine Professor.”

He started in the wine business in 1971 as a part-time sommelier in a restaurant. He has since held many positions within the wine industry including a wine buyer for two department store chains, VP and National Sales Director for American BD Company, VP of Marketing Italian Wines for Winebow, and has worked with many Italian wineries in developing their brands in America.

Mr. Verdoni feels his greatest challenge and satisfaction have come from launching new Italian wines in America. He has received awards and commendations from the American Wine Society, the Culinary Institute of America, and was recently awarded a lifetime achievement by The Italian Trade Commission recognizing his work in popularizing Italian wines in the United States.

Mr. Verdoni is currently consulting for restaurants and distributors throughout the United States, conducting wine dinners, seminars, restaurant training programs – and, as always, helping people discover the wines of Italy.