Gallipoli, Italy

We specify that this is the Gallipoli in Italy, because there is a far more famous Gallipoli in Turkey, where a notable battle was fought in World War I.  This Gallipoli is a seaside village in Puglia (which some have anglicized to Apulia) near numerous vineyards where the principal grape is Negroamaro.  There is a new town, which you can ignore, but the old part offers a tourist a number of reasons to stop there.

The antecedents of the town are from ancient Greece, not Rome; in fact, Gallipoli mean “beautiful city” in Greek.  Over the centuries, it has been ruled by many foreigners, including the Goths, Byzantines, Normans, the dukes of Anjou, Venetians and Spaniards.  Each of them has left a trace on Gallipoli. 

The Castle still guards Gallipoli’s harbor and the ancient bridge to the mainland.

The most impressive monument to Gallipoli’s past is the Castle.  It is a huge, round fortress that overlooks the harbor.  The old town is actually an isthmus, with a narrow bridge connecting it to the mainland.  The castle hovers over the bridge and was intended to keep invaders, like Saracens and Tripoli pirates, at bay.  We’re not sure it always worked, but conquests seem to have come from the land side, not the sea.

The Cathedral of Sant’Agata was erected in the 17th century in a plateresque style, reminding you of the Spanish overlords who were in charge at time.  The exterior has statues of some martyred saints, but it is the frescoes on the interior walls and ceilings that dazzle the eye.  They are so large and there are so many that it is hard to take them all in.  We found it best to choose one or two and just focus on those works of art.

The grindstone for making olive oil.

An interesting attraction is a museum of olive oil, or more formally, the Frantoio Ipogeo di Palazzo Granafei.  There were once dozens of underground olive mills in Gallipoli; this is the only one remaining.  They were below the streets in order to keep the olives as cold as possible in Southern Italy’s heat.  The work of pressing the olives, collecting the oil and purifying it was grueling.  Local lads would work there for a year, because they were paid so handsomely for their labor that they were set up for life.  The donkeys who went round and round endlessly to drive the presses were not so lucky.

Alas, tourists have discovered Gallipoli, so as you walk along the town’s narrow streets, you’re as likely to hear English being spoken as Italian.  You’ll find shops selling t-shirts and the like, but you’ll also find enough other things to keep you interested for a while.  However, this shouldn’t stop you from wandering around.  The well-maintained buildings are alluring and some of the shops are rather interesting.

As a parting stop in Gallipoli, we recommend the fish market, naturally down by the harbor.  It smells a bit (more than a bit), but you can eat fresh seafood there and you know that it really is for the locals, not for the tourists.

Special Occasion Wine Gifts

The Wall Street Journal has long had a feature they call “Open That Bottle Night”.  The premise is that many people have a few bottles that they’re saving for a special occasion.  But the occasion never seems to come and so the wines linger until they’re no longer so special.  The Journal advises that we all should open and savor one of those bottles at least once a year.

Photo courtesy of Marketview Liquor.

We do in fact have a certain number of bottles that get extra care and, yes, we do open them on some special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries – and some not so special, like that first barbecued steak of the season.  But then there are some reasons for wines that are important for someone else.  These might include welcoming a new addition to the family, reciprocating a friend’s wine generosity or celebrating some relatives’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.

We have confronted that situation over the years and have taken a few different approaches.

The easiest is simply to look through our collection and choose one of those wines to share with others.  That works well if we’ll be drinking it at our house, where we can control the handling of the wine from cellar to table.  But if we’re going to someone else’s place, all the care that has been given to a bottle over the years is likely to be for naught.  The sediment will be shaken, the temperature will be unpredictable and so the wine really shouldn’t be drunk that night.

So off to the wine shop we go.  But what to look for?  First, we really need to understand the tastes of the intended recipient, the nature of the occasion and possibly the menu.  There’s no sense bringing a California power hitter if the people we’ll share the wine with favor delicate Burgundies.  The intent is not to say, “Here’s something we like” but rather to show that we have an appreciation for what they like.

Another approach is to avoid table wines altogether.  How about a Champagne, say, or a Port?  The problem with giving Champagne these days is that there seems to be no middle ground.  Any given Champagne maison will have a base-level bottle that’s not quite special enough and a top-end premium bottling that may be beyond a reasonable price range.  For example, the wine shop we usually patronize has Pommery’s Brut Royale for $55 and their Cuvée Louise at $220.  Just how special is that special occasion?

Port has some of the same problems as a red table wine.  First, vintage Port that’s ready to drink (20 years old or more) can be very pricey.  And even more than aged red wines, Port throws a lot of sediment, making it difficult to consume at the time it is offered.  Sauternes might be a good alternative, but these dessert wines don’t have the same cachet as Port does.

In the end, the wine version of the Golden Rule (“Give what you would like to receive”) applies, combined with some serious consideration for what we know of the recipient’s tastes.  The secret is to say, “We hope you enjoy this wine.  You don’t have to serve it tonight.”  If that means we don’t get to share it with them, there will be other occasions and other wines.

Pugliese Vineyards

Winemaking in Long Island’s North Fork has been going on long enough that there are beginning to be two types of wineries.  The first is the pioneers, built by the hardy individuals who thought they could make quality wine where once potatoes grew…and to a greater or lesser extent, they’ve done it.  The other is the newcomers, building on the success of the pioneers but bringing a lot of money earned doing something else, such as software or manufacturing.  Pugliese Vineyards ( is one of the oldest of the pioneers.

Established in 1980, Pugliese was and is a family enterprise.  The founding father has passed away but his wife is still to be found in the tasting room, dispensing wine, gifts and advice.  We’ve learned that there are now five generations involved in production and sales.  For those of us with respect for tradition in winemaking, this fact alone is a reason to visit the winery.

Photo courtesy of Foursquare.

The building housing the tasting room is simple, made of white clapboard.  There is a touch of a farmhouse about it.  But really, don’t visit Pugliese for the architecture.  Find a perfect warm afternoon, with blue skies and lots of sunshine.  That’s the time to come to this winery.

Around the aforementioned building are acres of lawns, trees, a lake with a fountain in it and, gloriously, a long pergola covered in vines with plentiful picnic tables below it.  You can bring a picnic or buy cheeses, cold cuts, snacks and olives on the premises, all designed to accompany the wines.  (Hint to the owners: they should offer Pugliese bread.)  Most of Long Island is flat; Pugliese isn’t exactly hilly, but they do bill themselves as “The Winery in the Hollow”, which only adds to its attractiveness.  As is the case with many North Fork wineries, Pugliese does a side business in weddings.  We can see why people would want to get married there.

Like many Long Island vineyards, Pugliese makes wine from a wide variety of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Gewurztraminer and Niagara, to be exact.  We have often said that this is an error by the local wineries.  Yes, they want to appeal to all tastes, but we think they would all be better off making better wine from fewer varietals.  We notice that some of the newcomers are also doing this.

Pugliese takes great pride in their sparkling wines, which they still call Champagne.  Of course, by law the real thing comes from that place in France, but Pugliese has been making their sparklers long enough that they were allowed to continue using the term as long as they identify it as coming from Long Island on the label.  They have four of them, and you can try a flight of all four.

To be honest, we don’t find Pugliese’s wines to be to our tastes.  That’s really unimportant.  For one thing, Power Tasting isn’t about the wines but about the wine tasting experience, and the experience at Pugliese is great.  Moreover, it seems that they have developed a dedicated following.  Whenever we have been there, we have seen groups of visitors buying lots of wine and enjoying it quite a lot.

Tasting to Buy

There are a lot of reasons to go wine tasting, ranging from a pleasant day in the country to serious connoisseurship.  In some instances, the reason may be (or at least include) the specific intent to buy a certain wine or type of wine.  Of course, we usually buy a few bottles from many of the wineries we visit on any given trip, but there are also times that we’ve been specifically looking to buy a particular varietal or a blend. 

Sometimes the objective is obvious: If we’re in Burgundy, we’re going to buy wines made from either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, because that’s what they make.  But for us Americans, we’re used to tasting at wineries where as many as a dozen types of wine are on offer.  If we are intent on filling a hole in our wine collection while we’re out tasting, we could just rely on the luck of the draw.  But we have found that following the tips we give below, we’ve been more successful in finding what we were looking for.

Photo courtesy of Kreglinger Wine Estates.

  • Be as specific as possible as to what you’re looking for.  If you start out thinking, “I’d like to buy some white wine”, don’t worry, you’ll find it everywhere.  That’s not the same as looking for a certain style.  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chenin Blanc are all whites but with very different flavor profiles.  So before you leave home, consider what you like, what you’re likely to serve it with and how soon you intend to drink it.  If you trying to buy, say, a flowery white with lots of fruit and a hint of sweetness, then you can buy accordingly.
  • It’s like going to a wine shop, except it isn’t.  At the store, all you can do is look at bottles and ask the salesperson for advice.  At a winery or a formal tasting, you can try before you buy.  That’s a plus.  But you probably would never go to ten wine shops to buy ten bottles to try at home.  On a wine tasting trip, you are going to taste the type of wine you’re looking for, then another an hour later and two more the next day.  Are you enough of an expert taster that you can remember all of the ones you’ve tasted and choose the best?  And will you want to drive back to the winery you visited yesterday to buy the one you remember you liked best?
  • Improve your odds by choosing the right wineries to visit.  As noted, you’re likely to encounter many different grapes and styles, all at the same winery.  A little homework before you set off on your trip will guide you to the places where it’s more probable that you’ll find what you want.  If a particular winery has six single vineyard Zinfandels and, oh yes, a Chardonnay, you have less of a chance if it’s a white wine you’re intent on buying.  Yes, there are exceptions and you should take advantage of them if you encounter them, but don’t bet on it.