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.  

Bacigalupi Vineyards

We love driving down Westside Road in the Russian River Valley.  Healdsburg is just behind us; great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay lie ahead.  Westside is a well-tended country road, with wineries on your right side, heading south, and occasional glimpses of the valley floor to your left.  And there on your right you will find Bacigalupi Vineyards (

The Bacigalupi tasting room.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Bacigalupi is a family vineyard, which means a lot in these days, when “family” often means “We made a lot of money doing something else, and bought ourselves a vineyard”.  The Bacigalupis have been growing grapes on this property since 1956, with the first plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1964, possibly the first Pinot Noir in Russian River.  They must have done some things right, because their Chardonnay was in the blend that won the Judgement of Paris in 1976, included amongst Chateau Montelena’s grapes.

Bacigalupi’s Pinot Noir.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

In fact, you may have already tasted some of Bacigalupi’s production.  They sell more of their grapes than they use for bottling under their own label.  Williams Seylem and Gary Farrell are among their customers, who gladly announce the vineyard they source from.  We don’t know if this is true (and the family won’t tell) but it’s only reasonable to expect that they hold back their best grapes for their own wine.

To this day, Bacigalupi is truly family-owned.  Charles, the founder, has passed away, but his wife Helen is still with us.  John and Pam, son and daughter-in-law, run it and Katey and Nicole are in management positions.  We have found that if you stop by for a tasting, a family member is likely to be pouring your wine.  And in keeping with that of-the-soil tradition, the winery is simple, more of a farmhouse than a tasting room.  It’s far enough off Westside Road that it feels rather isolated, as though it were the only farm property for miles, instead of one of the many Russian River wineries.

To this day, Bacigalupi has stuck with what they do well: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  In fact, they have kept the 2½ acre Paris Tasting Vineyard.  Wine from this vineyard is available (though hard to find) under the name Renouveau.  Our tastes run more to their Pinot Noirs, from several of Bacigalupi’s vineyards.  We find them representative of Russian River Pinot Noirs, which is saying quite a lot.  If you want to know what good Russian River Pinot Noir tastes like, try theirs.  They are full-bodied, but not like some of the bruisers from Santa Lucia Highlands, nor thin and acidic as you find at other Russian River vineyards.

While the wines are modern and bright, the experience of a visit to Bacigalupi is homey and laid-back.  It’s as though you are being invited into the Bacigalupis’ home, which after a fashion you are.  The wines are well worth tasting but they’re not the only reason to stop there.  You get to feel a part of a culture that is sadly dying out, of honest people making quality wines because that’s what they do.  More, it’s who they are.  If you’re a serious wine taster, you’ll appreciate the people as well as the wine.

Right Place, Wrong Grape

They grow Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux.  They grow Tempranillo in the Rioja.  There’s Chardonnay in Burgundy and Malbec in Argentina.  But let’s keep it domestic.  Napa Valley has Cabernet Sauvignon; Pinot Noir is grown in the area around Santa Barbara; and Zinfandel is the hot grape in Dry Creek Valley.  There are reasons for these grapes in these locations, including terroir, history and farming techniques.

Pinot Noir from Paso Robles.  Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Daily News.

But there are some times in your wine tasting travels when you might encounter grapes growing in places where they aren’t expected.  For example, Pinot Noir usually grows best in a cool, moist climate.  But there are quite a few wines made from that grape that can be found in the hot, dry region around Paso Robles.  And in Champagne, famed for sparkling white wines, you can find Bouzy red wine.

So if in your travels you should come across wines made from grapes that shouldn’t be there, what should you do?

  • Does it make sense to try these wines? Well, yes, what do you have to lose?  More to the point, you may have a lot to gain.  Some vineyard managers may take advantage of microclimates on their properties to grow grapes that can take profit from those conditions.  So, for example, many of those Paso Robles Pinot Noirs are grown behind the Templeton Gap, which gets its cool, foggy breezes from the Pacific.  These wines are never going to be confused with Burgundies, but some of them do express their own terroir, so they’re worth tasting on their own merits.
  • Why look for the unexpected wines? That’s one of the reasons to go wine tasting in the first place.  If it weren’t for trying these out-of-the-way wines, you could skip wine tasting and stick with your local wine store.  In some cases, they may be the only chance you have to taste these kinds of wine at all in that region.  We recently wrote about the wines made from Croatian grapes at Grgich Hills.  We’ve been to a couple of wineries where we were told that they were the only ones growing Tannat in California.  And I can think of only one where we have tasted Peloursin.
  • Is it worth the trip to try these wines? Probably not.  But that’s not the point.  If you’re already tasting the grapes that an area is famous for, trying something unusual is just an addition to your experience, not the basic rationale for an excursion.  There are places in Wine Country where the growers plant every grape they can, in hopes that the casual buyer will seek a specific varietal.  For the most part, most of these wines are not very good, because of both an unfavorable climate and an unfamiliar farmer.  There’s a reason they don’t grow Zinfandel in Canada or Marechal Foch (look it up) in Temecula, California  Or, at least, they shouldn’t.
  • Are these wines worth buying? If you like them, then sure, go ahead.  And if you want to share something really unusual with your friends, these offer the chance to do so.  But make sure you explain what makes them unusual.  Don’t be a wine snob.



Managing Wine Clubs

Over the course of years, we have been members of at least 20 wine clubs (not all at the same time).  These clubs are effectively an agreement for the members to buy a case of wine each year from each sponsoring winery.  In return for that commitment, you get a discount, normally 20%, and free tastings when you are at the winery.  In addition, in many clubs there are events that members may attend, almost all of which entail plentiful servings of their wines.  If you like the wines a particular winery makes, joining the club makes good sense.

Loading the truck.  Photo courtesy of August Hill Winery.

However, when you join you quickly learn that there are matters that require management on your part, eating up time and detracting from the pleasure of having fine wines delivered to your home.

  • You like some of the wines, but not all. Some clubs allow you a degree of specificity, such as only red wines or only certain varietals.  But many have a policy of sending you what they want to send (that you must pay for).  If customization is permitted, that means that when you receive the notification of an upcoming shipment, you need to make decisions about which ones you want and don’t want, replacing them with other wines and communicating these choices to the club’s designated contact (often nowadays the “ambassador”.  Thus are wine snobs made).
  • You won’t be home for a delivery. If you know at the time of ordering that you will be traveling, you can notify the club contact.  Most are accommodating to your schedule.  When you get a notice that a shipment is on the way, you usually get the tracking number from the shipping company so you can track your order.  But then you (or someone) must arrange to be at home to receive the wines, which usually means the whole day.
  • You want to speak with someone at the club. Some wine clubs, alas not the majority, are eager to engage in person with their members.  They’re available by phone, they reply to emails and know more about wine than order numbers and ship dates.  In all too many instances, so we’ve found, the contacts disappear between shipments.  It’s just frustrating and this type of difficulty has sometimes been the reason we’ve quit certain clubs.
  • You’ve become tired of their wines. With a few exceptions, we resign from our clubs after two or three years.  No matter how much you liked the wines at the beginning of your membership, you may not like what they send you at the rate of a case a year.  Especially if you’ve been buying age-worthy wines, they begin to accumulate in your cellar.  The expense of club membership may deter you from drinking other wines you know and like.  Yes, you can quit, but that means remembering to put it in writing and checking that your resignation didn’t get lost somewhere in the winery’s back office.

All this may make it sound like wine clubs aren’t worth the effort.  With membership in five or six at a time, we are definitely advocates of joining clubs at wineries you love.  Just remember that there’s work on your end, too.


In writing about Sarlat, we need to be rather specific.  We’re talking about Sarlat-la-Canéda, located in the Dordogne region of France.  Names can be a bit tricky in France; there are at least three other villages named Sarlat and the Dordogne is also known by its more ancient name, the Perigord.  (We Americans shouldn’t sneer.  There are 41 US cities and towns named Springfield.)

The Place de la Liberté in Sarlat.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

There are three reasons to visit Sarlat and its environs: architecture, gastronomy and history.  The architecture of Sarlat is that of a well-maintained medieval village.  Before the French Revolution, Sarlat was a large commercial center but later the trains passed it by, commerce died out and it fell into disrepair.  André Malraux, the novelist and Minister of Culture in the 1960’s poured funding into Sarlat for its restoration.  Today, visitors can wander narrow cobblestoned streets and view homes and businesses looking much as they did in the 15th century.  The focus of interest is the main square, the Place de la Liberté, which is ringed by shops selling things to the tourists, where markets are held on Saturday and Wednesday mornings.

A typical Sarlat foie gras shop.  Photo courtesy of Sarlat Tourisme.

There are more than shops on the square and in the town.  There is food, often with the most famous products of the region around Sarlat: truffles and foie gras.  Dishes served perigourdine are flavored with those back gastronomic diamonds: truffes noires or black truffles.  There are other locales in France where truffles are found, not grown.  (See Power Tasting’s article about Carpentras.)  Truffles go so well with foie gras, and foie gras is really what Sarlat is all about,.  You can have it so many ways: sautéed, au torchon, mi-cuit, entier, pâté, terrine.  And they’re all for sale in Sarlat’s shops, along with implements like silver knives that looks a bit like coping saws for slicing foie gras and silver spatulas for serving it.

If you travel just outside Sarlat, you can visit farms where they raise the ducks and geese that are used for foie gras.  Yes, we know the arguments for the mistreatment of these birds, but from what we’ve seen, they look pretty well taken care of right up to the end.  And a flock of geese running around and honking like mad is a natural comedy show.

And as long as you’re traveling outside Sarlat, take in a little of the history of the region.  The most ancient on view is at the famous cave at Lascaux, full of prehistoric paintings.  Actually, you can’t see the actual cave, because exposure was erasing the artwork.  But they have built an exact replica nearby.  More recent, there are the châteaux of Beynac and Castelnaud…only 900 years old.  They face each other across a broad valley, and during wars of the Middle Ages, they fired back and forth at each other.  At Castelnaud you can actually see replicas of the weapons they used in those days.

It isn’t easy to get to Sarlat.  It’s almost a three-hour drive from the Bordeaux airport and 2½ hours by train.  You can shave off an hour if you start from St. Emilion.  However you get to Sarlat, it’s worth the trip.

Talking About Wine

Power Tasting has written before about the perils of wine snobbery.  It’s an affront to politeness and often to the people in front of whom the snob is showing off.  But conversing about wines with friends and acquaintances who are knowledgeable about wine is a pleasure that should not be avoided either.  In fact, with a certain circle of our friends, we know that every get-together is going to include discussions about wine.


Photo courtesy of Skurnick Wines & Spirits.

No one is trying to one-up the other.  Still, we can drop phrases like “a high degree of malo*” into conversation and know that we will be understood.  It is fascinating to sit around a dinner table and hear others expressing their opinions about aromas and tastes, some of which each person agrees with and others that lead to statements like, “Are you sure we’re drinking the same wine?”  We trust our own senses and have faith in those of our friends, so such a discussion is informative, not confrontational.

There are particular lessons to be learned when one person is particularly familiar with a specific wine or wines from lesser known grapes or regions.  We, for instance, can speak knowledgeably about Quebecois dessert wines, since we spend a fair amount of time in the Quebec  province.  And if someone else can compare them with, say, ice wines from Ontario or Germany, so much the better.

A few problems can arise when the conversation drifts towards wines.  If everyone in the room has a roughly equivalent degree of knowledge, that’s okay.  But it does risk slipping into rather boring discussions after a while.  This is even more the case if not everyone is at the same level or, even worse, some don’t really care about wine at all.  By comparison, imagine being in a room full of Yankee fans and not only you don’t root for the Bombers, but you don’t know left field from first base.  The line between knowledge and snobbery is a fine one and might differ depending on the observer.

The way to make a wine conversation more amenable for everyone is to avoid specialist terminology and talk about one’s own impressions.  Many people are in the dark when someone says that a wine evokes, say, warm buttered toast.  But when those same people are offered two wines from the same grape and asked to dig down a bit to differentiate them, their taste buds go to work.

If, for example, they are offered a California Chardonnay and a Chablis, they may be astonished to find out that they’re made from the same grape.  When asked what makes one smell and taste different from the other, they may bring up words like butter, apples and oak.  This puts everyone on the same plane.  We’ve known beginners who have tasted something subtle that the experienced wine people, attuned to what is supposed to be in a type of wine, have overlooked.

* It means that the wine has undergone a lengthy second malolactic fermentation, which turns rather austere malic acid to buttery lactic acid.


Most American wineries that we are aware of have names that include words like Vineyards, Estate or Cellars.  But Paumanok, on Long Island’s North Fork, doesn’t have one of those words; it’s just plain Paumanok.  That’s okay, in part because the word is Algonquian for Long Island. It’s a no-nonsense name for a winery that’s basically about the wines they serve, without a lot of frills.  If your purpose for visiting is also all about the wines, you’ll be happy there.  If you’re looking for a party atmosphere, not so much.

The Paumanok winery, with its tasting porch.

It starts with the architecture of the winery.  It’s a renovated old barn, simple and a little weather-beaten.  Big barns do reflect the agricultural history of the North Fork, where potatoes and duckling were once the main crops, not grapes.  Founded in 1983, Paumanok is a family-run enterprise.  The interior is also plain and simple: a wooden bar and an expansive though rather empty wooden floor.

The Adirondack chairs, where you can sip and watch the workmen tend to the vines.

But if you are visiting on a pleasant day, you don’t want to be inside anyway.  You want to be on the winery’s porch or near the vineyards, where Paumanok comes into its own.  You can sit at a table or in a field of Adirondack chairs, facing the vines.  You choose some wines to try, a server brings them to you and then you’re left alone to enjoy them.  Again, plain and simple; if you want a buddy to converse with you, bring your own.  The servers are informative but not chatty.

And to an extent, this straightforward approach is reflected in the wines as well.  As is the case with almost all Long Island vineyards, they make wine from a wide variety of grapes, both red and white.  Paumanok specializes in the Bordeaux grape varietals in their red wines.  Power Tasting doesn’t review wines, but we can say that we were particularly impressed by their white wines.  That’s quite a compliment coming from us, whose cellar is 90% made up of red wines.  The Sauvignon Blanc and especially the Chenin Blanc were our favorites.

[Pardon us for a bit of a rant.  Why do Long Island winemakers think they need to grow a dozen different grapes, when clearly the terroir there is supportive of only a few?  Make what you’re good at and don’t try to please everybody with everything.  And while we’re ranting, why don’t more vineyards grow Chenin Blanc?]

For those driving to the North Fork from the west, which is just about everyone, Paumanok is among the first you’ll encounter when you leave the Long Island Expressway, which makes it an excellent first stop (or last one on your way home).  For people from New York City, visiting Paumanok is like letting out a long sigh: “Aaah, we’ve made it”.  This good, solid winery with its good, solid wines sets a standard that the rest of the North Fork vineyards needs to live up to.