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La Dolce Italia

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)MOSCATO d'ASTI

It seems like every visitor to Italy's Piemonte area falls in love with the fresh, fragrant, mildly fizzy, low alcohol wines which bear the denominazione of "Moscato d'Asti."  For years, our government did not recognize these 5.5% alcohol beverages as "wine", as the legal definition required a 7% alcohol minimum. 

Muscat grapes are cultivated from the Asti area south into the Barbaresco zone.   Winemakers crush and press the juice, holding it in its unfermented state under refrigeration.  As orders come in, they will ferment, partially, this juice to the 5.5% alcohol level, leaving the wine with a fair bit of sweetness.  This insures the freshness of the wine throughout the year. 

For some reason, it seems the best Muscat makes its way into these lightly fizzy wines.   The more bubbly "Asti Spumante" are rarely as fine. 

Currently in stock:

SARACCO $ 14.99 saracco.gif (17357 bytes)Paolo Saracco is one everyone's short list of TOP Moscato d'Asti producers.  His wine is delicious and arrives here, most importantly, in good condition.  Fresh.  Lively.  Fizzy and youthful.  We have the 2011.  Wonderful wine!!







CASCINETTA $15.99 This brand is made by a fellow name Soria and marketed here by Vietti.  It is always quite good.   On a recent visit, I was buying some wines to drag back to Germany for Norbert & Gaby.  I called to ask if they wanted the new "half bottles" which were available.  Gaby's reply was something like, "No!  FULL-BOTTLES!   Norbert & I can easily polish off a whole bottle.  Half bottles are for wusses."




G.D. VAJRA $19.99
  It's relatively recently that this producer of elegant and very refined Barolo (and Riesling, Pinot Noir and Freisa) has been making Moscato d'Asti.  And they do a fabulous job!  Very fine, intensely "Muscat" and thoroughly delicious.  The 2010 is currently in stock.





CASCINA CASTLE'T MOSCATO D'ASTI $12.99 (750ml)
This curiously labeled bottle depicts an insect atop the rim of a wine glass or cup, drinking the wine through a straw.  
I can recall a harvest season at a Piemontese winery...the little boy arrived home, ran into the kitchen and had a serious "glug, glug" right out of the bottle of their Moscato!  Who needs a straw?  Anyway, Maria Borio makes this lovely little fizzy and it's sweet and delicious.  Tropical fruit notes along with the classic Muscat fragrances and flavors...yum.

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LA MONTECCHIA

La Montecchia is a producer in the Veneto whose owners can trace their history back hundreds of years.  Maybe even a thousand!

The property is located near Padova and you'd only be 40 kilometers from Venice here...an hour by car and you're in Verona!  

There's a rather fancy villa on the property and tourists can rent one of the three small agriturismo rental units.  If you're a golfer or swimmer, those options are open to visitors as well.

But we are more concerned with wine and happily this estate produces a really splendid Moscato.  
It's made from the Orange Muscat grape and carries the name "Fior d'Arancio."

What a dangerously delicious wine!  Here's a remarkably aromatic and fruity bubbly.  Sweet, but not heavy or syrupy.  

Currently in stock: LA MONTECCHIA "Fior d'Arancio" $16.99

 

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TOTALLY WACKY:  MAROTTI CAMPI "XYRIS" $17.99


From Italy's Marche region comes this unique, delightful and new bubbly.

It's made by the Marotti Campi folks, a winery famed for a wonderfully aromatic red wine called Lacrima di Moro d'Alba.
This confuses many Italian wine aficionados, as they think d'Alba refers to the wines of Piemonte's Langhe region.

Not this time.

It's the name of a grape variety from the town of Moro d'Alba.

Lacrima di Moro d'Alba.  

The color is dark purple.  The aromas of the non-fizzy wine are hugely fragrant, with notes more reminiscent of Gewurztraminer:  rose petals and grapefruit.

The sparkling wine isn't quite as fragrant, though, but the flavors shine brightly...lots of raspberries and a touch of citrus with a faint suggestion of rose petals.  

Bob said the flavors reminded him exactly of a sorbet I made recently using the dry table wine called Rubico from Marotti Campi.  

You'll simply have to taste this to know...

 

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VIN SANTO

wpeA.jpg (8006 bytes)Most Vin Santo comes from Tuscany, though we do have one from a famous winery in neighboring Umbria.  Typically the wine is made from Trebbiano and Malvasia, though, apparently, other grapes are permitted. 


The fruit is laid out on straw mats (or hung in the house or attic of the winery) where it dries and shrivels.  Once in its raisined state, the juice is then pressed and fermented.  Aging takes place in small barrels which are stoppered with a cement covering over the bung.  The wine is then matured for 3-5 years, sometimes longer.  

 


This little cask of Vin Santo was thoroughly sealed with a bung coated in wax...and this producer will not bottle this wine until 2013 or 2015!!!


A taste of a homemade Vin Santo at a Tuscan trattoria was outstanding.  The wine was, obviously, not very old so it had retained a wonderful grapey, fresh fruit quality. 
The more traditional Vin Santo has a "nutty" character, not unlike a Sherry.   They also tend to be between 14-16% alcohol.

Some of the really top Vin Santo wines are quite pricey.  They can be extraordinary!   However, most customers are merely looking for a wine in which to dip biscotti (also known as croccanti, spacccadenti, ricciarelli and cantucci).  

Currently in the Shop:

Isole e Olena (375ml) (list $60) SALE $51.99
Outstanding!  Very fine. Very serious Vin Santo, traditionally made.



MONTELLORI 1998  Sold Out Presently
From a dear old friend who's making some fine wines in Fucecchio, not far from Lucca, we have a well-aged, beautifully balanced, sweet, nutty Vin Santo.  Highly recommended!








FELSINA $39.99 (375ml)
Quite good, nutty, well-aged...long finish.






Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano ("Normale") Sold Out (375ml) 
Avignonesi Vin Santo "Occhio di Pernice"  $219.99 (375ml)  

This winery makes probably the finest, most sweet Vin Santo.  Made from Grechetto, Malvasia Toscana and Trebbiano Toscano, the wine is matured in tiny barrels of 13 gallon capacity for 10 years.  It is incredibly rich and sweet.  I have tasted this periodically and recall that each time it was so sweet, it made by teeth hurt!  It's the Ch‚teau d'Yquem of Vin Santo wines.  Quite rare, too.

Even more rare is their special bottling called "Occhio di Pernice."  This is made not of white grapes, but of the Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese in English)...even more intense and deep...mind boggling...nectar.
 


A small barrel of the 2001 Occhio di Pernice...aging patiently in the cellar of Avignonesi.

 

PIAZZANO VIN SANTO  SALE $29.99 (375ml)

Piazzano's Vin Santo comes from a little estate not too far from Pisa...

We had mostly been interested in their Chianti wines, but it seems they have a delightful recipe for Vin Santo, too.

Trebbiano, Malvasia and Sancolombano comprise the blend...nicely nutty and moderately sweet.

 

 

BADIA A COLTIBUONO VIN SANTO  SALE $37.99 (375ml)  Last bottles

This large estate has dozens of vineyard sites (something like 180 parcels!) and more than three dozen olive groves.  

Their Chianti wines gained a certain measure of prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.  These days they're certainly viewed as a 'reliable' producer of Tuscan wines.

Vin Santo is made of a 50/50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia and it's matured for about 4 years in wood.  The resulting wine is sweet and soft, showing some candied orange notes and a bit of a nutty, oxidized sort of quality.



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OTHER ITALIAN DESSERT WINES


Antinori "Muffato della Sala"  $44.99 (500ml) Originally this was a dessert wine made from a blend similar to that of Umbria's Orvieto.  Over the years they've refined the blend and today it is an excellent (and a relatively secret) blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grechetto, Traminer and Riesling.  At least some of the grapes are affected with botrytis, as this is wonderfully honeyed and rich.  It is even matured in French oak for several months!  

 
 

Coppo Brachetto  Sold Out  
We understand the Coppo family is no longer producing this wine...a bit like Kodak no longer making film, or Hewlett-Packard no longer making computers and printers.  
How can that be?
 



 
Banfi Brachetto d'Acqui  $19.99 (750ml)  We view this as an after dinner beverage, but I know some Piemontese who enjoy this sort of fizzy, slightly sweet red as a mid-afternoon wine.  They also pair it with some home-cured prosciutto and homemade salame. 
I'd consider this with raspberry truffles or some sort of chocolate and raspberry dessert of grand decadence.  
 


Angelo, His Sister and Mrs. Angelo.

 

CA' ROSSA "BIRBET"  $21.99 (750ml)
Just a short drive from beautiful downtown Canale is the winery of Angelo Ferrio, one of the most charismatic characters in Piemonte!

He's a giant of a winemaker, though he's a short fellow with a deep voice, perfect for radio and yet he laughs like a little kid (hee hee hee!).

They make some "serious" red wines at Cascina Ca' Rossa (the 'house' is sort of red...more pink as you can see in the photo above), but there's also a delightfully frivolous Brachetto which is vinified to around 5% alcohol, leaving a nicely sweet, fizzy red wine.  It's thoroughly delicious and tastes like summer.
There's a nice touch of rose petals and raspberries to the flavor of this delightful wine.

 

 



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CASCINA GILLI
Italy has an amazing array of sweet wines and virtually every region offers something particular to that locality.

Above, of course, we've posted notes on Vin Santo wines from Tuscany and Moscato d'Asti bottlings from Piemonte.

There's a town near Asti that is well-regarded for a particular sweet wine and the leading practitioner of the "art" of fizzy Malvasia is Cascina Gilli in the environs of Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
 
 
 
 


The wine is much appreciated by "those who know," and it's been five years since we've been able to offer this amazing wine.

The previous importer was distracted by hugely expensive Barolo's and ignored this little treasure.  We've stayed in touch with the folks at Cascina Gilli and, finally, have access to their Malvasia.


 
 
The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in reinforced stainless steel tanks and bottled with the carbon dioxide, so the wine is mildly bubbly.  The color this vintage is fairly deep and the aromas are wild:  sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and hints of floral notes in the background.  
It's not high in alcohol, so this is dangerously drinkable, especially with fruit desserts.

It's, essentially, "summer in a bottle."

Chill a bottle for your next dinner festa and you'll soon hear the "oohs" and "aahs."

Currently in stock:  CASCINA GILLI "MALVASIA"  $17.99 


Vineyards at Cascina Gilli

 

 

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ALLEGRINI "RECIOTO"
wpe6C.jpg (8699 bytes)The Allegrini family, "the" leading family in Valpolicella, makes a small amount of a wonder "Recioto."   The grapes are dried for several months and the wine is aged for more than a year in oak.  Some people will tell you this is the "sweet" version of Amarone.  The producers in  the Veneto say this is incorrect.  "Amarone is the dry version of a Recioto." 
It's quite rare.  Some liken it to Port, given that the wine is very berryish and fruity, though lower in alcohol.  Chocolate, dried fruits or biscotti call for this wine.
Available in 500ml bottles: $51.99


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COLOSI
The Colosi name is highly regarded for its Malvasia delle Lipari wines.  Now in its third generation, the winery has about 7 hectares of vines on the tiny island of Salina north of places like Palermo and Messina.  

We have a couple of wines from Colosi.  Piero Colosi's 1999 Malvasia delle Lipari is blended with 5% Corinto Nero and has a floral, slightly nutty character.  It's sweet, of course, with lots of honeyed and apricot notes.    Also available is Colosi's "Passito di Pantelleria," a wine of similar blend but made of grapes that have been dried or raisined.  The resulting wine is quite intense, with candied orange and nut-like aromas and flavors.   As only a few people know these wines, we usually have but a bottle or two in stock (but can usually order more rather quickly).

Currently in stock:  Malvasia delle Lipari $31.99 (375ml)
 Passito di Pantelleria $36.99 (500ml)

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PELLEGRINO
We have a wonderful example of Moscato made as a Passito wine from the Pellegrino winery.  Pantelleria is the home of this wine, some 80 miles south of where Marsala is made in Sicilia.  

The island of Pantelleria is a bit isolated and many vineyards used to be shielded from the sea breezes by rock walls.  

This is fairly sweet, with a mildly raisin-like note.  

Pellegrino Passito $24.99 (750ml)
Pellegrino Passito $15.99 (375ml)
Pellegrino Moscato Sold Out



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DONNAFUGATA
This is a wine made by the Rallo family, a familiar name to those who know some of the names associated with Marsala wines.

Donnafugata is a "new" project for the Rallo family, having been started in 1983.  

We like their exceptional sweet wine from the island of Pantelleria, called Ben Rye.  This is produced from the local Zibibbo grape (known elsewhere as Moscato d'Alessandria) and the vines produce a small crop--less than two tons per acre!  The grapes are usually harvest in August and left to dry until  mid to late September when the juice is vinified.  The resulting wine, which is costly to produce, offers an amazing fragrance of apricots, baked peach, caramel and toasted nuts.  Some people enjoy this with Foie Gras, but it's exceptionally fine with coffee or mocha-flavored desserts.   Very fine.  Very rare.
 

Currently in stock:  BEN RYE Passito di Pantelleria  $37.99 (375ml)


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LA RONCAIA

Friuli is the home of some amazing wines and very fine cooking.  I was amused when a proud Friulana woman told me that some Italian regions have good food and some have good wine, but Friuli (in northeastern Italy) is the only region when you can find both!  
(I'm sure she'd hear arguments from friends in Tuscany, Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna and just about everywhere else in Italy!).

La Roncaia is a small cellar near the town of Nimis, owned by the Fantinel winery family.  Fantinel was started by a hotel and restaurant guy.  In fact, the current generation of Fantinels has opened a chain of wine bars around Italy (Rome, Milano, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Venice, etc.) to show off its Friulano wines and local specialties such as San Daniele Prosciutto.  


While the Fantinel wines are sound, simple wines, the La Roncaia project is their higher quality level winery.  They have vineyards in Ramandolo, a name most closely associated with the rare Picolit grape.  This grape was, at one time, viewed as producing wines of similar quality to that of Chteau d'Yquem.  The Picolit vine tends to produce a small crop and then they dry the fruit for about 8 weeks to further concentrate the sugar.  The juice is fermented in stainless steel and small oak, with the resulting wine showing lots of apricot and raisined notes.   We view this as a wine for fruit desserts, but I know friends in Friuli like it as an accompaniment to certain local cheeses.
 
Currently in stock:  LA RONCAIA 2002 Picolit $55.99 (375ml) 


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MARSALA
Though not always a "dessert wine," Marsala is one of Italy's most famous exports.  It comes from the provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento in Sicily.   The grape varieties found here include Catarratto, Grillo and sometimes Inzolia.   You'll find both dry and sweet versions, dry typically being used for chicken and veal dishes. 

We often receive telephone calls inquiring if Sherry can be substituted for Marsala, since virtually none of the home chefs in the region think of stocking the cupboard with Marsala.  In fact, the wines are not terribly similar, as Marsala is made from concentrated grapes.  Its minimum aging period for those designated "fine" is but four months, while those noted as "superiore" are a degree higher in alcohol and aged 2 years.  Those matured for five years can be called "vergine."  

Watch out for those labeled "speciali" as these are typically flavored with coffee or eggs.  We usually have some bottles of "VOV," a Marsala with eggs which is basically liquid "zabaglione."  

There's not much of a market for especially fine Marsala.  We had a special bottling from the house of Florio at one time.  The distributor no longer offers this due to the lack of interest. 

But recently (2013) we've had access to some seriously good Marsala.
 

MARCO DE BARTOLI

de bartoli marsala superiore   Marco De Bartoli Vigna la Miccia Marsala Superiore Oro DOC - Sicilia   Marco De Bartoli   
Marco de Bartoli took over his mother's farm in the 1970s and although he could have made 'simple' Marsala wines, he took another direction and became a world famous winemaker.

In fact, De Bartoli had two wine businesses, one making wine in the region famed for Marsala and a second cellar on Pantelleria where he made a wine called Bukkuram.

De Bartoli passed away and today his sons runs the business, making some stellar wines.

We have some bottles of the Vigna La Miccia, a "Marsala Superiore," a wine made entirely of the Grillo grape and matured for 4 years in French oak.  It's not a solera-type Marsala but comes under the heading of "Conciato."  It's an extraordinary wine, fairly sweet but with a fine balance so it's not syrupy or heavy.  
We like the notes of dried apricots and the mildly nutty character here...nothing like it and if you want to show guests something they've probably not tasted previously, put a bottle of this on the table with some Gorgonzola at the end of a meal...or an Apple Crisp with a rich Vanilla Ice Cream.
Currently in stock:  DE BARTOLI "VIGNA LA MICCIA" MARSALA SUPERIORE ORO  Sale $39.99 (500ml bottle)
 
VITO CURATOLO ARINI
They claim to be the oldest family-operated winery making Marsala and their story goes back to 1875 when young Vito Curatolo decided to build a winery and start producing Marsala. 
He added his mother's maiden name, Arini, to his to further distinguish himself from other producers.

They make a single vintage Marsala which attracted our attention.  It's a 1988 vintage and is a blend of Grillo and Cataratto grapes.  As the wine is fermenting, they arrest the fermentation by adding "mistella," a mix of fresh juice and high-proof alcohol.  And then they blend in some "Mosto Cotto," or "cooked" grape juice.
The wine then is put into neutral wood such as Slavonian oak and it spends a couple of decades maturing.  The 1988 was bottled just before the harvest of 2011!
The wine is deep amber in color and the nose shows notes of dried apricots and brown spices.  It's fairly sweet, so pairing it with a sweet dessert is ideal...baked apples with honey and walnuts...desserts with maple, perhaps...an Apricot Tart...you get the idea.
 

Currently in stock:  VITO CURATOLO ARINI 1988 Riserva Storica MARSALA  $24.99 (750ml)


FLORIO

This is the most famous label in the US market for Marsala wines.  Though they do make some special bottlings, these are neglected by the importer and distributor as they're too much "trouble" (work, in other words) to sell.
You have to explain the wines to sommeliers and store owners and even with that, scarcely anyone comes in to a restaurant or shop looking for Marsala to put on the table.

Usually the request is for "cooking wine" that's Marsala and even $12 is viewed by many home chefs as too costly.  
 
 

  But if you are preparing a recipe that calls for Marsala, please splurge for the twelve-buck bottles of this and don't wimp out and buy some California knock-off because it's five bucks.  

We carry Florio's Sweet and Dry Marsala...Sweet for desserts and if you're making some savory dish, you'll usually want the dry.

Kapeesh?
 
 
 
 



FLORIO DRY MARSALA "Fine"  $11.99

FLORIO SWEET MARSALA "Fine"   $11.99
 

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I VINI "MACULANI"
maculan.gif (11776 bytes)The Maculan family tends vineyards in Italy's Veneto region.  They're located in the village of Breganze and make a tremendous variety of wines.  While they make good Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet, their dessert wines merit special attention.  There are three very fine sweet wines coming from the Maculan's.  "Dindarello" is an Orange Muscat, the grape being "Moscato Fior d'Arancio" in Italian.  This is relatively low in alcohol (typically below 12%) and is perfect for berry and citrus desserts.  


Bigger and richer is the wine called "Torcolato," a blend of Vespaiolo, Garganega and Tocai.  The fruit is left to dry and is processed in January.  It is usually matured in French oak, about one-third of the barrels being new.  This can be cellared for as long as a decade, if you like.  

The biggest, richest wine of the trio is called "Acininobili," made from the same varieties as Torcolato, but this fruit is affected with botrytis cinerea.  Maculan then ages this wpeB.jpg (26026 bytes)for two years in wood and another in bottle.  This is the smallest production of the trio, accounting for something less than 200 cases annually.  Like the Torcolato, this may be cellared for a decade or so.


Photo Taken by Gerald Weisl

Fausto Maculan with my traveling companion that trip, a fellow named Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards.  Fausto is showing Randall the bunches of grapes in their warehouse which are next to a small stream (which provides humidity to encourage the growth of botrytis cinerea). 
 
 
Currently in stock: 2005 Dindarello $18.99 (375ml)
2003 Torcolato  $35.99 (375ml)



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ANTINORI ALEATICO
Amongst its many holdings around Tuscany and Umbria, Antinori bought a property near Pitigliano in southwestern Toscana.  If you know where Grosseto is located, you're pretty close to the Aldobrandesca estate of Antinori.

They grow a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon here, but the main item of interest is their Aleatico.

The first vintage from this property was made in 1997, though I know Antinori had been offering Aleatico for many years.  I was at some friend's place in Italy and found a very ancient bottle of Antinori Aleatico in their collection of bottles!  

The wine has a marvelous perfume, being redolent of rose petals and it's moderately sweet without being syrup.  

It's a bit of a rarity as I don't think any of the Antinori reps in our area even know this wine exists.  
Currently in stock:  Antinori Aleatico  $31.99 (500ml bottle) SOLD OUT
Antinori has a new US importer and Aleatico is not presently part of their portfolio.
The new importer seems to think this wine is simply not sufficiently important to be of interest, so they are not bringing it in presently.  We do have (usually), though, a nice Aleatico from the Falesco winery...
November 2007



FALESCO ALEATICO
Since the Antinori importer is not presently offering Aleatico, we've looked elsewhere and found a really nice alternative.  It's from the Falesco winery in Lazio (not too far from Rome and virtually on the border of Umbria).

The winery is owned by the Cotarella brothers.  Riccardo is a famous consulting winemaker and his brother Renzo works for the Antinori family.

This comes from a small 2 hectare parcel in Lazio.  The wine is made entirely of Aleatico and it's given a cold "soak" with the skins to capture more aromas and flavors of this fragrant grape variety.
The wine is bottled young and fresh...a perfect partner with cherry pie, berry cobbler or pears with a raspberry sauce...you get the idea.

Sweet but not sticky sweet, this is a delicious dessert wine.

Currently in stock:  FALESCO "POMELE" Aleatico  $27.99 (375ml)

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SCACCIADIAVOLI
Please don't injure yourself trying to say "Scacciadiavoli."  

This is a winery owned by the Pambuffetti family, another nice-sounding name if you can manage to pronounce it.

"Scacciadiavoli" refers to some sort of devil-banishing or exorcism that took place in this Umbrian locale.  

The grape for this amazing wine is the Sagrantino variety, a specialty of the Montefalco area in Umbria.  This is a deep, dark, powerful red grape, making a wine which makes some Cabernets appear tame.  

For decades the "traditional" wine made of Sagrantino was this sweet, dessert wine.  The residual sugar balanced the fierce tannins and the wine was highly-prized and served at special occasions.  

Today, of course, winemakers know how to manage the tannins and the popularity of Sagrantino as a dry red table wine has skyrocketed.  In fact, it's catapulted Montefalco into a bit of an eno-tourist area.  The production of dessert wine is, today, much smaller than that of the red Sagrantino table wine.

Scacciadiavoli is one of our favorite estates in the region and we find their red wines to be of really good quality.  So, I suppose, it shouldn't be a surprise that they make a stellar example of Passito.  We have the 2003 vintage in store presently.  Delicious with chocolate desserts, particularly a flourless chocolate cake...chocolate with a raspberry sauce...etc.

Currently in stock:  2003 SCACCIADIAVOLI  Montefalco "Passito di Sagrantino"  $47.99 (375ml)
 

 

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If you have any special requests, please send me an e-mail and we'll see if your favorite is available.   gerald@weimax.com


WE ALSO HAVE ABOUT 40 DIFFERENT KINDS OF GRAPPA IN STOCK, PLUS ITALIAN BEER AND SODAS.
And there's Barolo Chinato, various "Amaro" bottles and more...

 


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