Cocktail Corner: A Taste of Italy with DoctorWine

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As far as I’m concerned, one of the only things more fun than enjoying a great wine and food pairing is enjoying it with smart people who are willing to share their knowledge and make the experience even more delicious. When DoctorWine himself, Daniele Cernilli—a highly acclaimed expert on Italian wines and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017—came to town last week, I was thrilled to be able to break bread with him and taste wines from some of his favorite producers.

Our tasting at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant was definitely a treat.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Named one of the “50 Most Influential People in the Wine World” by Decanter Magazine, Cernilli is a journalist by trade, and in addition to being a regular contributor to Italian newspapers, trade and consumer publications, he has written a number of technical books on wine and wine tasting. In addition to multiple editions of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine, his books include, among others, Memorie di un degustatore di vini (Memories of a Wine Taster), a chronicle-memoir of his first 25 years as a taster with this opinions on many Italian and foreign wines, and Vitigni del Mondo (World Wine Grapes), written in collaboration with Dario Cappelloni, which is the most complete catalog of wine grapes ever published in Italy.

In other words, he knows his stuff, and so did the eight wine producers who accompanied him on a tour of California.

First up was Torre Rosazza – Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Fruili DOC 2016. Torre Rosazza is one of the largest producers in Europe, and Pinot Grigio has been cultivated in Friuli for centuries with great results that showcase the area’s hilly terrain. Luisa Bortolotto, the winery’s Export Manager was on hand to answer questions. Paired with a delicious salad of gems lettuces, heirloom tomato, cucumber, mint and  mouth-watering herb creme fraiche, this wine was fresh and very drinkable.

DoctorWine Daniele Cernilli leads The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour luncheon at Les Marchands, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Next up were two wines paired with a delicious summer corn chowder: Querciabella – Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 from Tuscany, along with Owner Giacomo Neri; and Feudo Maccari – Saia Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2014 from Sicily.

Querciabella, as DoctorWine explained, has been organic since 1988, long before there were any regulations around the practice and this very classic, 100% Sangiovese Chianti was quite lovely with a balance of fruity and savory notes. The Feudo Maccari wine, made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes was very complex and full bodied, but quite well balanced, and also paired very well with the soup.

Our main course was the Les Marchands fabulous take on Steak Frites, with pan seared hangar steak, wild argula, salsa verde and French fries. It paired really well with three different wines: Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montepulciano, accompanied by Owner Francesco Carletti (“King of the old Tuscan wines is the Nobile,” says DoctorWine, and it did indeed have some royal flavor); Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2013 from Piedmont, a lovely 100% Nebbiolo classic Barolo; and Velenosi Roggio Del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore DOCG 2012 from Marche. 

Finally a lovely assortment of cheese and Helena Ave Bakery breads accompanied the last two wines: the Robert Parker 100-point-rated Casanova di Neri – Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montalcino, along with General Manager Roberto La Sorte (yes, it was excellent); and the Bertani – Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007 from Veneto/Amarone, accompanied by Technical Director Girdano Formenti. DoctorWine explained that the Bertani was a classic Amarone, made the traditional way, in vineyards devoted entirely to producing drying grapes. The grapes are set aside to dry on (racks made from bamboo canes and then they ferment in concrete and age in barrels for seven years. It’s a complicated process, but so very worth it.

Want to learn more about Italian wine? Cernilli’s website,,  is entirely bi-lingual (Italian-English) and is designed especially to give an Italian perspective to a global public. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.


When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 5, 2017.