Eating Donkey Ravioli in Piedmont

A few months ago, many of us in Berkeley had the good fortune of getting to spend some time with two producers who are relatively new to our portfolio: Fabio Altariva, of Fattoria Moretto in Emilia-Romagna, and Luca Marchiaro of Antica Distilleria Quaglia in Piedmont. At dinner, I asked Luca, who looks like Liam Gallagher, what his favorite Italian food is, knowing that asking an Italian this question is like asking Eric Clapton which is his favorite guitar to play. While our Piedmontese guest thought it over, visions of pizza napoletana, tortellini, pesto, and ribollita danced in front of me.

After a few moments, Luca answered, with a straight face: “Donkey ravioli.”

Huh? Did Clapton just say that a ukulele is his favorite guitar to play? Luca must have seen my jaw dislocate because he quickly followed his answer with context. He explained that wartime poverty in Asti led one restaurant family to sacrifice its remaining, honorable donkey because the family did not have access to any other meat. Because asino is tough, they cooked it for several hours in a stew and inserted succulent spoonfuls into the classic pasta pouch. Delicious and a way to commemorate leaner, hard times, donkey ravioli lived on in this restaurant—and others in Piedmont—to the present day.

Now, I have followed a mostly vegetarian diet for the last six years, but when Luca was done, I wanted to book a flight to Piedmont and try this dish right away! But what to wash it down with? The reds in our collection of Piedmontese wines would do very well, from Benevelli’s quaffable, versatile Dolcetto to Guido Porro’s exquisite Baroli—contenders for Value of the Century. Just be sure to start your meal with the Vermouth Luca helps make. You can drink it straight or mix it into a variety of cocktails. My personal favorite is a spritz, using an Italian sparkling wine like Fattoria Moretto’s Pignoletto, a delicious alternative to Prosecco.

If the ravioli don’t appeal to you, that’s fine. The wines of Piedmont are perfect for most fall and winter dishes that come to mind, from butternut lasagna to Shepherd’s Pie, and all your favorite stews and braises in between. Buon appetito!

View the wines in our Guide to Piedmont collection here.

The Sardinian Festival of “Mamuthones e Issohadores”

by Tom Wolf

Every winter, in the remote Sardinian mountain village of Mamoiada, twenty men transform into the mysterious, masked, and pagan Mamuthones and Issohadores. It’s the day of Saint Anthony the Abbot—patron saint of animals and swineherds, among others—and the Mamuthones are wearing black handmade masks, brown fur, and 50 pounds of cowbells on their backs. The Issohadores, human counterparts to the animalistic Mamuthones, dress in red, white, and black, and carry lassoes. Through the cold town dotted with bonfires, they process together, performing their respective dances, from afternoon into night. (This year’s parade took place on January 17th.)

Like many Sardinian traditions, this one’s history is opaque—oral and varied. The island is almost 150 miles off the coast of mainland Italy, and the festival is a world apart from the extravagant and brightly colored winter carnivals of Venice, New Orleans, and Rio.

If you were to travel to Mamoiada for the Mamuthones e Issohadores celebration—aside from watching the central parade—you should visit the museum devoted to the masks of the Mediterranean. Then you might feast on roast pork, prosciutto crudo, and culurgiones, celebratory Sardinian pasta similar to ravioli, filled with some variation of boiled potatoes, olive oil, pecorino cheese, garlic, mint, and nutmeg. And you’d certainly sip on Cannonau—Sardinian Grenache which, according to one local mask maker, children from the town taste immediately after leaving the crib.

Giovanni Montisci, a former mechanic, has become a master of Mamoiadan Cannonau since he started bottling his own wine in 2004. With organic work in his very old vines—often plowed with the assistance of a bull—and minimal intervention in the cellar, Giovanni crafts a deep, elegant wine: Sardinia’s answer to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The most recent shipment of Montisci’s wines has just arrived. You can find his Cannonau “Barrosu” here.

Keep Coming Back to Cabernet Franc

by Dustin Soiseth

Cabernet Franc is my favorite grape. Before I worked at Kermit Lynch—even before I jumped into the wine business full-time—I would come to the shop to buy Loire Valley reds. Where else can you purchase the absolute best a region and domaine have to offer for about fifty bucks? Not many places. They were a steal back then, and they still are today. I sang Cab Franc’s praises in last month’s newsletterwhich features a great Cabernet Franc samplerbut I would like to share a more personal story about one particular wine here on the blog.

It was probably in 2008 that I bought a bottle of 2005 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos de la Dioterie” from the Kermit Lynch retail shop in Berkeley. It is the domaine’s most majestic wine from their oldest vines, and it ages forever. I ignored the bottle as best as I could, but ended up uncorking it about a year later. It was a special occasion for Kate and me. We were hosting our first dinner party as a married couple and I wanted something special to drink. The wine was great, though I can’t help but feel that some of the subtleties went unappreciated both due to the wine’s youth, and the fact that dinner was about an hour and a half late and everyone was starving. Still, it was a special wine for a special night. I began working at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in 2013, and shortly thereafter we received a few magnums of that same 2005 Joguet Dioterie. I vividly remembered the wine from that dinner party, and eagerly bought more.

Every so often, the KLWM retail staff get together for dinner, and of course we bring our own wine. It’s a great time for us to unwind, share our favorite bottles, and take a break from yelling at one another and fighting over allocations. The most recent dinner took place at Camino in Oakland. I brought that same magnum of 2005 Dioterie I purchased a few years back, and paired it with an entrée of grilled pork loin and sausage with farro, grilled pan di zucchero, almonds, and preserved lime. On this occasion the wine was in its prime: raspberries steeped in black tea, plums, graphite… A more mature Cabernet note appeared on the finish after being open for a few hoursroasted tomatoes. And fine tannins. Some tannins are aggressive, assaulting the palate; these were refined tannins, aikido tannins that used the fattiness of the pork loin and smokiness of the sausage to their benefit. There were many great bottles that night, including old Tempier and Trévallon, but that Dioterie was the star for me.

I still have a few ‘05s from Joguet in my cellar, including a Dioterie, and that makes me happy. I have enjoyed the wine in its adolescence and young adulthood, and now I’m going to wait to enjoy the last few bottles in their (and my) maturity. It’s been a years-long journey with one wine, and it’s not over yet.


You can find the 2014 “Clos de la Dioterie” here.

From the archives…The words and wines of André Ostertag

by André Ostertag

Alas, I barely have any memory of my previous lives, and although I am willing to bet that I was an innkeeper, a drunkard, or at least your common wine drinker, as much as I search my memory I cannot recall what wine tasted like back then.

Luckily, yet too rarely, I have at times had the opportunity to lower my nose into a glass of old Burgundy from the beginning of the century or a pre-war Alsatian wine, but each time a romantic dizziness swept me away from objective analysis.

One thing is certain, the wines of yesteryear have the power to set our spirits afire. Their rarity, their glorious age, and the weight of history, command our respect and impel us toward contemplation. Such tastings are always stamped by an almost religious emotion. And even if it should happen that such a wine shows a flaw or two, the emotion felt when drinking them renders the experience unique and unforgettable. Thus they will always seem superior to today’s wines.

Nevertheless, wine has never been so intelligent as it is today. Our engineers, oenologists, and technicians of all varieties have made possible a spectacular leap in quality. Actually, good wine will soon become an everyday beverage found in bars, bistros, and shopping carts. Quality has democratized itself so much that Saint Marketing, who never ignores our weaknesses and who anticipates our desires, has finally cut us short of any sense of surprise. It is horrible to say it, but quality has become banal!

Above all, this kind of quality is a reflection of technical advances and consumer fads. However, true quality is that which succeeds in surprising and moving us. It is not locked inside a formula. Its essence is subtle (subjective) and never rational. It resides in the unique, the singular, but it is ultimately connected to something more universal. A great wine is one in which quality is contained. Such a wine will necessarily be uncommon and decidedly unique because it cannot be like any other, and because of this fact it will be atypical, or only typical of itself.

Modern man, in his eagerness to understand everything in order to master it, spends his time classifying, filing, and organizing. It is obvious that the indefinable, the unclassifiable, and the unusual confuse our modern thought processes. So it should come as no surprise that the notion of terroir suffers while the grape variety gains importance, or the “commercially correct” spectrum of aromas is confined to the fresh, easy, and simple to the detriment of more unusual aromas (mineral notes, lees, and so on).

Today the definition of quality wine is one that should give equal pleasure at any moment, night or day, from one’s cradle to one’s deathbed. As if wine were nothing but a vulgar consumer object, sleek and docile, a little pet devoted to not disturbing our moods or classifications. However, it seems to me that in the old days wine was more capricious, more erratic, no doubt, yet its personality was more pronounced. There were no clonal selections. Each plot of vines represented a variety of different rootstocks. A wine bore more than now the imprint of its vintage, because the weather conditions and their direct consequences on a wine were less easy to remedy by treating the vines or correcting later in the cellar laboratory.

However, the real change took place above all in the relationship or exchange between man, his vines, and his wine. Before, a winemaker had to maintain an intimate, direct rapport with the elements. He had to link himself to things, allow them to become a living part of himself, to penetrate his soul, his gut, in order to feel and understand them.

Had he any other choice? There was no protection against disease or pests in the vineyard. No oenology lab, no research centers. Only the winemaker himself held the key to “Le Grand Vin.” When scientific knowledge and technology are limited, our senses of observation, intuition, and sensitivity, all of which make up our subjective thought process, are heightened.

In the old days the wine producer had few resources with which to defend himself against nature. He had to figure out how to come to terms with her.


If I were to read something like that, I would want to taste the man’s wine to see where such thoughtfulness led him. And I did. And now you can, too. “Wines that surprise and move us,” as he says. This shipment marks the beginning of our collaboration with André Ostertag. You won’t be bored. –Kermit Lynch

[From the March 1996 Newsletter]


Try the 2015 Pinot Noir “E” >> from Domaine Ostertag, featured in our September 2017 newsletter.

Exploring Sardinia

by Kermit Lynch

Last November with Gail and Anthony, I visited Sardinia for the first time. We landed in Cagliari in the south. So should you. If you are anything like me, you’ll enjoy the pace, the ambience, the quality of life. There are no tourist attractions like the Louvre or the Tour Eiffel, so, no mobs to endure, none of the trash that tourism brings to most of the world’s beautiful sites. It all seemed so civilized—the architecture, the arcades, the boutiques, wine bars, and restaurants. It is an addition to my short list of Places to Retire.

We didn’t discover any great wines near Cagliari, but at the wine bars we tasted several interesting bottles and added more names to our list of domaines to visit.

Next I remember tasting late one evening up in the mountains at about 3,000 feet altitude, searching for the Agriturismo where we were to eat and sleep. It was after ten, dark as could be, and no one around to receive us. Nobody answered the door. Nor the phone. I cussed out loud, which worked. A car drove up. “Buona sera!” Lights, camera, action. A platter of homemade salamis and prosciutto appeared with a pitcher of inky rotgut. Anthony quickly went to the car and grabbed some bottles from the trunk so we had something swallowable with our what-turned-out-to-be delicious home-cooked meal.

We also especially liked Alghero in the northwest—on the Med, population about 45,000, lovely beaches all over the place, and, of all things, a Catalan influence in the oldest part of the town. It turns out the Catalans invaded in the mid-fourteenth century, and their presence is still manifest.

After all is said and done, after all the wines were tasted and spat, we were surprised and excited by some of the wines we encountered in Sardinia. Sardinian wines I’d previously tasted in the United States had led me to believe we’d find some good, inexpensive, fresh-tasting island wines. Summertime wines.
But no, we encountered incredible diversity and certain terroirs capable of producing remarkable wines—for example, Mamoiada in the mountains for Cannonau (aka Grenache), and Gallura for Vermentino. The three domaines we decided to import for you are distinctive from anything you’ve tasted elsewhere because of the terroir, history, an isolation factor, plus the individual touch of our growers. Your palate is going to find it possesses taste buds it didn’t know even existed.

From the September 2017 Newsletter >
Shop our collection of
newly arrived Sardinian wines >

From the archives… Clues for the Future, When Our Present is Past

by Kermit Lynch

Nature Magazine reports that archaeologists recently found ancient pottery containing wine residue, which proves that our ancestors were enjoying wine as early as 5400 B.C.

In one report a scientist is quoted as saying of this discovery, “It’s possible this will be the earliest that will ever be found.” Wait a minute. Doesn’t it seem just as reasonable to say that this will not be the earliest ever found?

And what if wine predates mankind? It could. Imagine a wild vine with clusters of ripe grapes, and along comes Stegosaurus, who crushes them underfoot. The grape juice collects in a fissure in the rock, wild yeasts attack, and for a short time (before it turns to vinegar) wine exists.

“Earliest that will ever be found…” Bah, humbug. They call that science? I want my money back.

On a less grumpy note, one startling aspect of the discovery was the lack of a government health warning on the pottery containing the residue. After at least 7,400 years of wine drinking, it was our own relatively freely elected government that first required health warnings on a container of fermented grape juice. About time, right? Thank you, D.C. And to be objective, throughout history (excepting our current generation) everybody who consumed wine died, providing to some (like the scientist quoted above?) the plausibility of our government’s requirements.

However, it must be said in wine’s defense that despite drinking it, mankind itself is still alive, and probably enjoyed a giggle or two along the way.

Now, to return to one of my favorite themes, I would like to point out that what the archeologists found was residue. Sediment. In other words, if that wine had been filtered, we would not know that wine existed 7,400 years ago. We owe it to future generations to leave our own traces, our own little purple deposits, in order to ensure employment for future archeologists. Just one more reason for reasonable people everywhere to keep shopping at KLWM.

[From the August 1996 Newsletter]

From the Archives… Now I’ve Heard Everything

by Kermit Lynch

Someone showed me an article that says, “Alice Waters credits Lynch with influencing her cooking.” Oh yes. That must have been my special Charred Pork recipe. I might as well give it to you straight, because Alice has never forgotten it, and she mentions it to me usually in public at least once a year. I can just hear her introducing me to somebody like Julia Child, for example, saying, “And this is Kermit Lynch, the wine importer. Once he invited me over for dinner and…”

Charred Pork

Season ecologically correct pork filet. Place filet on grill over red-hot coals. Start gabbing with Alice about food and wine scene. Get carried away. Smell burning pork flesh. Run. Remove flaming filet from grill. Look in fridge for something to eat.

No, really, it is true that I have now and then prepared meals that Alice has eaten, somewhat, but influenced her cooking? I am flattered, however, and will now probably make the history books. Unless… unless it was my:

Sliced Homegrown Tomatoes

Slice homegrown tomatoes into slices. (By no means shall you slice them into quarters.) Allow ground salt and pepper to descend by gravity flow onto each slice. Serve immediately.

I don’t know. I’m sure Alice’s future biographer can safely say that she influenced my cooking more than I did hers.

But now you see perhaps the difference in personality between me and Alice. She seems driven to revisit my Charred Pork, but I would never, ever reveal the recipe for her Fish Soup on the Floor.




by Anthony Lynch

You are likely unfamiliar with this wine zone of southeast Sicily, just outside the hilltop town of Ispica and its stunning Baroque architecture. More likely you know its star grape variety, Nero d’Avola. While it can be found all over Sicily, Nero d’Avola takes on another dimension in the white, chalky soils of the Eloro appellation—the grape is said to have originated nearby, and it arguably makes its greatest wines here. Breezes coming off the Mediterranean temper the decidedly hot, arid climate (these are Italy’s southernmost vineyards, on the same latitude as Tunis), while the abundant limestone ensures the roots of the vines stay cool, preserving acidity and giving the wines a welcome freshness. While Nero d’Avola produces pleasant wines for easy drinking all across Sicily, nowhere else does it reach the complexity, grandeur, and refinement possible in Eloro.

   A great terroir, of course, is only half the equation: it takes a talented vignaiolo to harness the natural richness of the territory and put it into bottle. That man is Massimo Padova, who founded the Riofavara estate in 1994. The dry conditions in southern Sicily are naturally favorable to organic agriculture, but the pursuit of quantity over quality meant that industrial farming dominated until only recently. In addition to pioneering organic viticulture in the region, Massimo became the first to vinify with native yeasts, seeking authentic expressions of Nero d’Avola from his low-yielding, dry-farmed vines. His visionary approach and uncompromising precision in his work result in wines of great harmony that ally Nero d’Avola’s intense blackness with lively fruit and silky-smooth tannins.


Here is a soft, round, deliciously accessible Nero d’Avola that escapes the grape’s all-too-common pitfalls of overripeness, excessive alcohol, and low acidity. The perfume suggests blackberries, violets, and baked earth, while the aging in used barrels and unfiltered bottling have given a velvety, pulpous texture. While the Spaccaforno is at home alongside most Mediterranean-inspired dishes, you might consider exploring the unique, almost exotic cuisine of Sicily, with its Arab influences, for a next-level pairing.

$22.00 per bottle $237.60 per case


From a parcel of the estate’s oldest vines, the Sciavè is by all means a bigger, badder, and brawnier brother to the Spaccaforno. Everything is black: the color, the fruits its aromas suggest, the tarry concentration, its notes of licorice, and the spice elements that prickle the sides of the palate. For all its outright power, this beast of a wine boasts an acidity that keeps things refreshing, along with tannins of remarkable finesse.

$35.00 per bottle $378.00 per case


Massimo also grows some Moscato, which he vinifies bone-dry to fully capture the chalkiness of his terrain. This exotically perfumed sparkler is unlike anything you’ve ever tried. Guava, orange blossom, passion fruit, and wildflowers race across the palate like a lightning bolt, and its fine, persistent bead cleanses the palate with delicacy and class. You’ll try many sparkling wines from all throughout Italy, but the marriage of the Moscato grape with this stony Mediterranean terroir is unrivaled.

$29.00 per bottle $313.20 per case

From the Archives… Provence

by Kermit Lynch

Sometimes I feel under appreciated because some people think my life is one big vacation. They don’t realize the effort it can take to obtain a decent bottle of wine.

Yesterday, for example, I had to spend practically the entire day at Cassis. It is not like I can just taste the wine, agree on a price, and go home. No, I had to drive down to the harbor with the winemaker, jump from the pier onto his bobbing boat, and motor out onto the Mediterranean, scene of countless shipwrecks. The sun’s heat was blazing. I tried not to think of ozone depletion, sunburn, skin cancer … We had no choice but to jump into the cooling sea. Luckily I happened to be wearing a bathing suit. Just as I was about to dive in, I noticed a school of inch-long jellyfish floating by. Their sting can momentarily paralyze you and leave you in pain for days. I wondered, is this really worth it?

We motored out to safer waters and, finally, almost faint from heat prostration, I plunged into the cool blue water, a blue so beautiful I could barely stand it.

But still it was not over. Back at the domaine with its panoramic view of the cliffs and beaches of Cassis, I had to shelter myself under a tree and wait until the coals were ready for grilling a few local fish. Once they were cooked, we washed them down with some Cassis. (Of course. What do you think, a winemaker is going to serve me any wine other than his or her own? I told you this job is no vacation.)

But sitting there I finally got something accomplished. I was working it out in my mind: fish, Cassis, wine, Cassis wine, fish, fishing, etc., and all of a sudden it came to me. The white wine of Cassis was not invented to be shipped all over the world. It exists because once upon a time long ago the population of Cassis, a simple fishing village, needed something to drink with their catch, or seafood, as we call it. I thought to myself, why not recommend to my clientele that the next time they eat seafood, they drink a wine created to drink with it, Cassis. It works.

[From the September 1998 Newsletter]

Currently available in our Berkeley shop:

$32.00 per bottle     $345.60 per case


A Night on the Town with Marco Tintero

by Anthony Lynch

Meeting Marco Tintero for the first time, several years ago at his winery in the Piedmont town of Mango, proved an exciting event for me. A longtime drinker—guzzler, if we’re being honest—of his humbly priced frizzanti, I had long looked forward to getting to know the man behind them. And Marco did not disappoint.

The evening began with perhaps the most casual tasting of my career, Marco jovially pouring wines in between hacks at a tasty homemade salame. As I swirled, swished, and spat each sample, I noticed that my host instead downed the contents of each glass as if it were nothing. He is certainly of sturdy build and was no doubt thirsty after a long day out in his steep vineyards, but the man sure could drink.

And yet, quaffing glass after glass of Marco’s wines in all three colors seemed completely natural. No need to take detailed notes in this tasting; these are simple, unpretentious, and absolutely delicious wines that quench thirst and inspire the kind of convivial atmosphere that radiates from the Tintero household.

His generosity extended throughout the evening. As luck would have it, the annual Mango village celebration took place that night, and the entire town teemed with festive energy. We loaded up the car with several cases and took off into the night, ready for whatever Piemontese debauchery might transpire.

Sadly, anecdotes of the late-night antics cannot be divulged here. After all, as the locals say, What happens in Mango, stays in Mango.*


This dry Barbera-based rosato has just the right amount of sparkle to tickle your tongue as it slides down your gullet. Aperitivo? Sì. Salumi? Certo. Picnic? Assolutamente.

$9.95 per bottle $107.46 per case


The rosso is a blend of local grape varieties made in a soft, fruit-forward style that perfectly lends itself to pairings with Piemontese cuisine, Italian cuisine in general, and, indeed, most food groups. It drinks well on its own, too. Bottled with a screw cap for your convenience.

$9.95 per bottle $107.46 per case


The new vintage is simply irresistible—the perfume alone is enough to make a field of wildflowers jealous. To impress your date, pour a glass over a bowl of ripe strawberries cut into bite-sized pieces with a sprinkle of chopped mint, if you are so inclined. Then spoon the Moscato-bathed berries into your mouth as you sip a goblet of the very same nectar on the side.

$12.00 per bottle $129.60 per case