David

Before he was a food and travel writer, David Lyon was a commercial fisherman, a line cook, a poet, and a sometimes teacher of writing and cooking.
Facing an uncertain future with the promise of seeds

Facing an uncertain future with the promise of seeds

At the cusp of March and April in this pandemic year of 2020, it's time to face the future. We are still four to five weeks away from the last frost here in Zone 6 (Cambridge, Massachusetts). And although we are being told that the incidence of illness will only continue to climb for the next few weeks, it's time to plant. The rhythms of the seasons are oblivious to human care. The new moon arrived last week, so I began to chart the summer garden. On the previous new moon I planted basil. Nurtured in a cold stairwell under a glass skylight, the sprouts turned into seedlings and have grown tough and sturdy under the adversity of cool temperatures. In my urban apartment building,...Read More
Boccaccio’s ‘Decamaron’ and the solace of stories and wine

Boccaccio’s ‘Decamaron’ and the solace of stories and wine

The news from Italy, especially in the north, is nothing short of horrific. So quickly has the COVID-19 pandemic moved that everything was transformed in a manner of weeks. As I write this post in mid-March, it's hard to believe that just three weeks ago (February 25), a few hundred representatives of mostly northern Italian wineries were in Boston for the annual Slow Wine presentation. That's the irrepressible Roberto Bava of Cocchi (cocchi.it) in the Piedmont at the top of the post. Italy has seen such horrors before. The Decamaron by Giovanni Boccaccio is one of the foundational books of Italian literature. The frame story is set in the summer of 1348 as the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe. Three young men and seven young...Read More
Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

Honoring the past, Rocca di Montemassi aims for the future

About 20 minutes southeast by car from the marvelous stone town of Massa Marittima with its 13th century Romanesque cathedral (above left), the Rocca di Montemassi estate celebrates the Maremma farming heritage all the way back to the Etruscans. It is only a short distance from Rocca di Frassinello (see previous post) but its style is lovingly retro. The Zonin family—famed for winemaking in the Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli, Tuscany, Lombardy, Sicily, and Puglia—purchased the land in 1999. Vines of Sangiovese, Vermentino, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) of the 20 hectare (49 acre) farm. “Farm” is the operative word. Not only do the Zonins produce wine here, they also keep pigs and Maremma cattle, a...Read More
Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Rocca di Frassinello balances Bolgheri and Scansano

Draw a line on the map between Bolgheri and Scansano, and Gavorrano is right at the mid-point. Featuring soils comparable to those found in Chianti and Montalcino, the home of Rocca di Frassinello (Località Giuncarico Scalo, Gavorrano; +39.0566.88400; roccadifrassinello.it) has one significant difference. Ambient temperatures range 4–6°C warmer, allowing grapes to mature three to four weeks earlier. That climatic difference also suits Bordelais grapes better than other regions of Tuscany, making a Franco-Italian collaboration seem inevitable. The wines hint at Scansano's traditions with Bolgheri's innovations. Seeking to replicate his extraordinary success of Castellare di Castellina in Chianti in the 1970s, Paolo Panerai joined forces with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in a grand experiment to harness Panerai's expertise with Sangiovese with the Rothschild mastery of...Read More
Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Il Fiorino crafts wine-friendly pecorino cheeses

Pecorino cheese production in the Maremma dates from at least the Middle Ages, but the modern story of Maremma Pecorino dates from the 1957 founding of Caseificio Il Fiorino (Loc. Paiolaio, Roccalbegna; +39 0564 989 059; caseificioilfiorino.it/english.htm#pascoli; open for sales Mon-Sat 9am-1pm and 3-7pm). Duilio Fiorini (usually referred to in hushed tones as Il Fondatore) started the operation, now run by his daughter Angela and her husband Simone with about two dozen staff. Maremma wines practically beg for a cheese plate of mellow, supple cheeses. Il Fiorino fills the bill with a range of sheep's milk cheeses that range from a quivering ricotta to nutty, long-aged wheels. The Pecorino Toscano cheeses are a world apart from the crumbly, sharp, and very salty Pecorino Romano commonly...Read More
Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

Emerging winery points to Maremma’s future

You can't quite see the ocean from the winery at Fattoria di Magliano (Località Sterpeti 10, Magliano; +39 0564 593 040; fattoriadimagliano.it). But if you turn southwest and close your eyes, you can smell the salt air rising from the coast 10 miles away. That maritime influence combines with well-drained soils to produce intensely flavored grapes. Founded in 1997 by footwear magnate Agostino Lenci, the winery embodies the expanding possibilities of the Maremma. While the traditional varietals of the region, Sangiovese and Vermentino, represent 80 percent of the vineyards, the winery also has extensive plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as significant amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. From the outset, the winery embraced French grapes and technique as a complement...Read More
Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Finding the minuscule mountain hamlet of Montemerano is no mean feat—although the front desk staff of the nearby luxurious Saturnia spa resort can literally draw you a map. Once you get there over a series of winding country roads, you'll have to park in the flat space below the village. Walk up the narrow stone streets to find the glowing open door of Da Caino Ristorante (Via Canonica, 3; +39 0564 692 817; dacaino.it). It's worth every scintilla of the effort. Chef Valeria Piccini (left) is a tireless and inventive champion of Maremma cuisine, which she interprets in an elegant modern style. A chemist by training, she is a self-taught chef who took over the kitchen of Da Caino family restaurant from her mother-in-law in...Read More
Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Stone cities, stone Etruscan tombs, and vineyards bursting from soil of broken stone. The slightly porous gray rock known in Italian as “tufo” (“tuff” in English) consists of compressed ash from a long-extinct volcano. It is the stone that pokes through the ground throughout the highlands of the eastern Maremma. The monumental medieval cities of Pitigliano (above) and Sovana are either carved from tufo or built from blocks of it. Near Sovano, Etruscans left impressive tombs carved into a tufo hillside. Winemaker Carla Benini embraces the red volcanic soils, crafting wines of surprising depth from some of the grapes indigenous to this corner of the Maremma. She and her husband, documentary filmmaker Edoardo Ventimiglia, settled on this land outside Sovana in 1990 and have spent...Read More
Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Every wine lover knows Tuscany. Most of us cut our teeth on Chianti Classico, grew up to relish Brunello and Barolo, and pad our birthday wish lists with Bolghieri's “Super Tuscans.” But while everyone seems to know Tuscany, until recently only the Tuscans seemed to know the southwestern coastal region of the Maremma. That's changed in a big way, as some of Italy's most powerful family wine empires have taken a stake in the Maremma in the last few decades. Even local winemakers refer to the Maremma as the “California of Italy.” They continue to respect tradition, but they also prize innovation. Of Tuscany's patchwork of 40 DOCs, or named wine regions, none is more dynamic than the Maremma Toscana DOC (www.consorziovinimaremma.it/en/), established in 2011....Read More
Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Serious modern winemaking took root several decades ago in Pennsylvania, but a handful of small wineries just outside Philadelphia's western suburbs are expanding well beyond the presumed limits for Keystone State wine. This third post takes a quick look at three wineries a short drive from Philadelphia. One challenges conventional thinking about Italian grapes for Eastern Seaboard winemaking. Nestled in a suburban neighborhood, another proves that “backyard winery” is not just a California phenomenon. And yet another is systematically proving that Pennsylvania can produce wines that age beautifully into a voluptuous maturity. Vineyards speak for themselves at Vox Vineti Ed Lazzerini refers to Vox Vineti (Latin for “voice of the vineyard”) as a nano-winery because it produces 200-300 cases per year. But the vines are...Read More