Which restaurant has the best Champagne list outside of France?

Champagne heaven – Can you guess where it is?

Champagne

A champagne lineup like this can only mean one thing: Ciccio is involved.

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Ever been to Vinoteca Centro Storico before? If not, you should go! Ciccio, the boss, along with his wife and mother in law, runs the place where you can get the best champagne outside of France. I guess you could say that it’s his passion – besides food of course. The list of bottle he has is non existent (because it’s all in his head) but I can guarantee he will find something that suits your mood. Philipponnat, Pierre Peters, Pol Roger – you name it.

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Centro Storico is a legendary place, and all the locals seem to think so as well, because you are very likely to run into them there (especially late at night). If you follow Ciccio on Instagram you will see incredible lineups and crazy pictures. Basically, you are bound to have a good time if you go! And try the ham as well; he hand carves it right in front of you!

Barrel Tasting: Throwback to my first wine tasting

My first barrel tasting was also my first wine tasting

Lucky me. Barrel tasting with Elio at his winery in Cinque Terre was an extraordinary experience and was the catapult that has led to so many wonderful experiences. My family was vacationing in the area and coincidentally Elio was there tending to his grapes. My dad managed to arrange a visit, a visit that turned out to be legendary.

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The visit started with a trip in the vineyards. Have you ever been to Cinque Terre? Let me tell you, it’s steep and rough terrain, so how they do vineyard work is beyond me! There’s no way to bring a tractor down, so they have to do everything by hand. Yikes! And harvest time? Carrying all those baskets of grapes up and down that steep uneven hill? It’s only for a certain type of superhuman!

Barrel Tasting

After the trip in the vineyard, he brought us to the cellar, where we proceeded to barrel taste! Keep in mind, I was only 18 at the time and this was my first wine experience whatsoever. The whole concept blew my mind and I marveled at the man standing before me. How could this (older) man have so much energy (and be in such good shape)? I had never met a person like him before and I was amazed at his passion and love for what was to me only grapes back then. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started to love wine shortly after we met Elio.

Barrel TastingIf you ever have the chance to meet  him (and his incredible daugther Silvia) take it! And I recommend traveling to Cinque Terre, if not for the wine then for the beautiful landscape!

Wine Opener: Which ones do you use?

Wine Opener: Got any favorites?

I don’t know if wine opener is a huge subject, but I certainly have a favorite type. Most people open “regular wines” (as in not old ones with difficult corks) and now there’s glass and screw cap, so many also don’t need an opener. Honestly, I prefer corks. Not sure why. Maybe it feels more natural that way? Any opinions?

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Anyway, if you do have a “normal” cork, the ones pictured are the most common ones these days. And yes, I know, it looks like I steel wine openers for a living, but I swear I asked if it was OK for me to “steal” them. Thank you Nino Negri, Fratelli Revello, Manzone and Vietti!

All the openers pictured are called sommelier’s kinves. My favorite opener is the one on the left, the red one from Vietti. of course it doesn’t have to be from Vietti but that type of opener, with only one metal “arm”, is my weapon of choice. The one with two “arms” just doesn’t feel as good to use, not sure why. Any thoughts?

Other types of wine openers are twist corkscrews, air pressure wine openers, winged corkscrews and Ah So openers (the one for old bottles).  Check out a more detailed description here.