Pievalta by the glass in beautiful Larkspur, CA at Picco

best homemade pasta larkspur

Above: Chef Bruce Hill’s housemade pasta at Picco in Larkspur.

Picco owner Chef Bruce Hill is one of California’s food pioneers.

He began his career working with Jeremiah Towers at the now legendary Stars in the 1980s. And he has opened and cooked at some of the Bay Area’s most important, landmark restaurants like Aqua and Oritalia.

“Hill is an immensely talented chef,” wrote restaurant critic Michael Bauer for the San Francisco Chronicle in late 2013.” He worked at Stars in its heyday, brought fusion food to the Bay Area with Oritalia, cooked food more electrifying than the view at Waterfront, and invented several products, including a burger press that’s now sold at Williams-Sonoma. In other words, he’s a very busy and versatile guy.

For more than ten years now, Picco in Larkspur has been a favorite Italian destination for one of the most sophisticated groups of fine diners in the world. These folks know good food…

And we’re proud to report that Chef Bruce pours Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi by the glass.

Highly recommended…

Picco Restaurant
320 Magnolia Ave
Larkspur, CA 94939
(415) 924-0300
Google map

Image via the Picco Facebook.

Summer at Lake Iseo, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets

lake iseo summer

Many Italian-bound travelers will head to the famous beaches of Amalfi, Maremma, and Venice this year.

Others will find their way to popular fresh-water destinations like Lake Como or Lake Garda.

But here in Franciacorta, we’ll enjoy summer at Lake Iseo, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.

If you’re heading to Italy for a summer vacation and you want to find an off-the-beaten-track and less hectic beach spot, have a look at this wonderful English-language online tourism portal devoted to life on Lake Iseo. It’s brimming with lodging and dining info, as well as resources for water sports, events, etc.

See also this Telegraph (UK) article, “Lake Iseo: Italy’s secret treasure,” published a few years ago.

“Iseo is not the most famous of the Italian lakes,” writes the author, “but it could be the most charming.”

Image via Mauro Sartori’s Flickr (Creative Commons).

Barone Pizzini @InsideIWM, New York’s iconic Italian wine shop

italian wine merchants

Anyone who works in the Italian wine trade in the U.S. knows that Italian Wine Merchants in Manhattan is the country’s leading Italian wine store.

There are many great Italian wine retail selections in New York and beyond. But no brick-and-mortar retailer is more iconic or influential than “IWM” as it is known affectionately in the biz.

We were thrilled to learn that IWM President of Sales, Will Di Nunzio, featured Barone Pizzini as his pick of the week yesterday.

Here’s what he had to say (links will take you to the IWM online shopping cart).

Since 1870, Barone Pizzini, the first to become an organic grower in the Franciacorta DOCG, has been making some of the best wines in the region. Its long history is a testament to the quality that this estate can deliver, and today’s selections show you just what Barone Pizzini can do with Franciacorta Brut and Rosé—two ideal wines for the rest of the summer. I would jump in and enjoy the fun bubblies that Italy has to offer.

​​Barone Pizzini Brut Franciacorta NV $37.20

​​Lombardia – Chardonnay (90%), Pinot Nero (10%)

Elegant, spicy, with notes of flowers and ripe fruit, the Brut is creamy, persistent and complex with a beautiful perlage. While perfect for any raw bar selections, this sparkler can be enjoyed next to any main of fish, white meats and even various hard cheeses—serve it very chilled.

​​Barone Pizzini Rosé Franciacorta NV $49.50

​​Lombardia – Pinot Nero

The Barone Pizzini always makes it Franciacorta Rosé in very limited quantities, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a great deal of it. This beauty has sweet notes of dried fruits and is mouth watering on the palate. Like the Brut, it is ideal with seafood and grilled fish.

Image via the Italian Wine Merchants Facebook.

Wine Advocate: 90 points for our 2009 Franciacorta Saten Brut Millesimato

Here’s what Rome-based Wine Advocate Italian reviewer Monica Larner had to say about our 2009 Franciacorta Saten Brut Millesimato in the December 2013 issue of the magazine:

Barone Pizzini 2009 Franciacorta Saten Brut Millesimato
90 points

The 2009 Franciacorta Saten Brut Millesimato is a deeply perfumed wine with dried grass aromas, yellow flower, stone fruit and crushed mineral. It sees six months in barrique and shows bright floral intensity and good structure in the mouth. Bright citrus gives the wine a steely, tonic finish. Drink: 2014-2019.

Founded in 1870, Barone Pizzini is one of the oldest estates in Franciacorta and its ownership has always been associated with that tightly knit community of Italian entrepreneurs who gave birth to the Franciacorta wine identity. It became the first in the area to produce certified organic wines.

franciacorta cuvee

Barone Pizzini fruit healthy, harvest in about two months

franciacorta grapes

We’re happy to report that the 2014 harvest at Barone Pizzini is looking good.

Northern Italy has seen a lot of rainfall in recent weeks and even some hailstorms.

But the Barone Pizzini vineyards have been spared any damage.

The good news is that lower-than-average summer temperatures have helped to slow the vegetative cycle. After an extremely mild winter, it appeared that harvest would come much earlier than usual. But the cooler weather seems to have brought it in line with “classic” harvest times. As a result, the grapes will ripen more slowly and develop richer flavors.

They expect to begin picking in about two months, depending on the weather, says Barone Pizzini manager Marta Piovani, who snapped these photos at the winery last week.

franciacorta harvest 2014

Weather update from Jesi

In the wake of reports of bad weather and cool temperatures across Italy in recent weeks, we asked Pievalta manager Silvia Loschi to send us an update on conditions in Jesi. Here’s what she had to say (early next week, we’ll post an update from Francaicorta as well).


Over the last three weeks, there have been a number of storms and the weather has been very unstable in Jesi.

The storms didn’t deliver much rainfall but on three different occasions, hail struck isolated areas in the Castelli di Jesi appellation.

Our vineyards in Maiolati Spontini were struck by hail on June 25. It was a short but intense storm and the hailstones were the size of cherries.

In certain portions of the vineyards, we estimate that 20 percent of the vines were damaged. The parcels that were struck the worst were in Pieve, Orfeo, Fosso del Lupo (north), and parts of the Veranda and Fosso del Lupo (central) vineyards.

The berries that were damaged are now drying and their wounds are healing.

This year, the vegetative cycle started roughly two weeks early. But the rainy spring and the relatively cool summer have slowed the growing cycle and brought it in line with classic ripening times.

—Silva Loschi

Britain’s Observer recommends Pievalta: “Wines that work with seafood”

Here’s what David Williams, one of Britain’s most influential wine critics and wine columnist for the Observer, had to say about the 2013 Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore:

There is usually a fine-line of acidity in the white wines made from the verdicchio grape in the Marches region of central Italy, too, the snap of green apple that makes them the seafood wine of choice in this area of Italy, whether produced in the Matelica area or near to the town of Jesi, just inland from the city of Ancona. In the case of this refined example from the relatively small, organic and biodynamic verdicchio specialist Pievalta, however, you wouldn’t really say acidity was the defining character: while it teases and tingles and matches wonderfully with grilled fish, it also has notes of fennel, almond and ripe pear.

Click here for the complete review and the other wines that David recommends for summer seafood dishes.

guardian wine recommendations england