Tuesday, September 29, 2015


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Ca di Rajo Export Manager Luca Ortoncelli and I dined at San Francisco’s Sociale this afternoon. He is in the USA to meet with his importers, journalists, bloggers and friends, like actress Debi Mazar. You see, before he worked in the wine industry, he made films. Hoping to keep his toes in cinema, he has visited Hollywood movie lots with cases of Prosecco, and even appeared in Uruguayan Sommelier Charlie Arturaola’s film, El Camino del Vino.

As we sipped the flagship Prosecco (see reviews below), Luca told me he was making a movie about Raboso, the local red grape which was used for Prosecco Rose. Now that the term Prosecco is strictly controlled – it is a place, a town, and the name of the appellations which produce this quintessential Italian sparkling wine – Rose is not permitted.

Prosecco the wine is made with the Glera grape. New regulations have decided on three quality levels, with the best having the highest elevation in the region. Prosecco DOC is the entry level tier, followed by Prosecco di Treviso DOC, and the highest level is Conegliano Valdobiaddene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Since the place name Prosecco is protected, no one else may use this name (except for Australia and Brazil but this a battle being fought right now with an interim solution of the Italians going there to sell the real deal to the thirsty masses). They must use the name Glera, as we would Chardonnay. Locally the grape is referred to as Bianchetta.

Luca believes that in ten years, this Venetian region will be better known for its dry red Raboso wines, which fit into the appellation he worked with the Veneto wine authorities to create, the Malanotte del Piave DOCG. The Ca di Rajo Raboso wines, made in a dry as well as richer dry style similar to Amarone, are only in Florida and Chicago at the meantime, but will be available in other markets soon.

Check out our reviews of the Ca di Rajo wines here:

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Tejo, the wine region formerly known as Ribatejo and pronounced “TAY-JHO” is well-known in Europe but little-known here. At a tasting earlier this week organized by Joan Brower of the Dilenschneider Group and led by Master Sommelier Eric Entrikin, we learned that the region is a treasure trove of unique and value-priced wines.
Tejo Home
Made from native grapes including Arinto, Fernao Pires,  Alvarinho and Verdelho for the whites, and Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Castelao and Aragones for reds, the wines have their own unique flavors, and across the board with medium-bodied with little to no oak.
Tejo River
Winemaking began here in the Middle Ages. The lush agricultural area is also known for olive groves, cork forests and prancing  Lusitano horses. Tejo, or Tagus, is the name of the Iberian Peninsula’s largest river, which dissects Northern from Southern Portugal and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon.

For more information on Tejo, visit www.winesoftejo.com
To read our reviews of the wines, visit http://winereview.planetgrape.com/?s=tejo

Friday, September 18, 2015


squid ink mezze maniche

SPQR restaurant on Fillmore Street in San Francisco was the perfect setting for a luncheon of Sicilian food and wines led by the charming and down to earth Alessio  Planeta, manager and owner with his sister Francesca and his brother Santi of the family company Planeta.

Chef Matthew Accarrino and Sommelier and Italian wine expert Shelley Lindgren are the dream team behind this popular Roman-inspired trattoria, and the family style menu, which hit it out of the park with every dish. My all time favorite was the seductive, earthy  squid ink mezze maniche with sepia, gulf shrimp, san marzano tomato and wild arugula, which paired beautifully with the 2014 Planeta Etna Bianco, a wine made with 100% of the local Carricante grape.

Palm Bay International organized the tasting, which coincided with the release of the family's new cookbook, "Sicilia - The Cooking of Casa Planeta," and both the ever-gracious Bethany Burke as well as Palm Bay's new Master Sommelier, Brian Cronin were on hand to take us through the wines and dishes.

Alessio told us, "Sicily was the center of the world. Now it is the center of the problems." Sicily has had its share of difficulties in producing fine quality wine in the past, and an easy market for bulk and inexpensive wine - which was the "energy" of the workers. Etna and other parts of Sicily were a big producer.  With the support and vision of a handful of multi-generational families including Planeta and Donnafugata's Rallo family, things are rapidly changing.

Check out our Planeta wine reviews here:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

40 Years a Master Sommelier - Celebrating Richard Dean

Richard Dean Master SommelierOn October 13th, 1975, Richard Dean became one of America’s first Master Sommeliers. Forty years later, he still works the floor at Taj Hotel Group’s Campton Place, albeit part time. That is quite an accomplishment for a Master Sommelier, many of whom leave the floor to take high-paying jobs in wine sales and to enjoy a more “normal” schedule with nights and weekends off.

I first met Richard while living in Honolulu. He was an inspiration and true friend then as he is now. Aside from his amazing work ethic and humility, he is incredibly generous, always offering to help a friend in need. Many in the Sommelier community owe him a debt of gratitude, if not cold hard cash. He became one of Manhattan’s elite Sommelier during his tenure at The Mark, getting rave reviews for his “speed dating” wine nights, and he continues to oversee a stellar lineup of winemaker dinners at Campton Place here in San Francisco.

On November 1, 2017, I will celebrate 20 years as a Master Sommelier. Dear Richard, I am halfway there!