Thursday, March 31, 2016

'La Fabbbrica della Pasta' in Gragnano (Campania), is the Home of Some of the World's Best Dried Pasta by Philip S. Kampe


Gragnano (Campania) is a hill town wedged between a mountain crest and the Amalfi Coast. This small town of 30,000 residents is the home of some of the best dried pasta in the world.

Gragnano is home to a small group of artisan producers in the town that thrive on the main street in the city center. Gragnano’s extra wide main street was laid out specifically to capture the mountain breeze mixed with sea air to dry their hanging pasta on drying rods, similar to a laundry. This is true for some traditional pasta makers today, but, most recently, heaters are used to dry the pasta at low temperatures for up to four days.

Pasta shapes are created by bronze molds, which give the pasta a rough texture and help create a nuttier aroma and chewier mouth feel. The pasta makers in this community want to maintain their traditional role as pasta makers have in Gragnano for centuries. The town was laid out to capture the salty breeze for drying the pasta years before the heater took over. Mountain streams provide pure mountain water for mixing the dough and turning mills.

Why is the pasta from Gragnano so special? After visiting the Gragnano pasta company, I learned the process.  The name Gragnano implies a location and a style, much like a DOCG does on a wine bottle. The pasta, like the DOCG wine must meet certain criteria. To be called pasta di Gragnano, the pasta, originally known as spaghetti, must be produced in a legally defined area. It must be made with durum wheat and calcium pure water from Monti Lattori. The pasta dough must go through a bronze mold and dried at a low temperature. The result is a spectacular pasta that absorbs the flavor of the sauce and has enough surface to hold the liquid.

There are many artisan pasta producers in Gragnano. The company that is my favorite is ‘La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano’. A tour of the pasta production facility and a tasting of the pasta afterwards convinced me that a lot of love for tradition goes into each pasta string that is produced. Also, ‘La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano, is famous for making the largest pasta shell that is sold in the marketplace.

Their pasta is sold all across the world and especially in North America. To see their shapes and to learn more about the company, visit their website at:

Philip S. Kampe

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'Strega', Campania's Most Famous Digestive by Philip S. Kampe

                                                     Mr. Alberti, the CEO of Strega

On a recent visit to Campania, I had the opportunity to visit the distillery responsible for my all-time favorite digestive, Strega.

As long as I can remember, my parents proudly served Strega at their in-house social gatherings with friends and family. My father said, each time to the guests, that after eating a full meal that this digestive (Strega) would neutralize your food and do wonders for the spirit.
Yes, Dad, I now get it!

If you don’t know about Strega or Liquore Strega, let me explain.

Strega is an Italian herbal liquer that was developed in 1860 by the S/A.Distilleria Liquore Strega. The beautiful town of Benevento in Campania, Italy, is the home of the distillery.

The common questions about Strega were answered at the distillery tour.
Why is Strega yellow in color? It is yellow due to the presence of saffron in the recipe.

How many herbs are used to make Strega? Usually up to 70 herbs and spices from around the world are used at one time.  Strega is 100% natural. The herbs and spices used in each batch vary slightly. Samnite mint, Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, Italian Apennine juniper, saffron and fennel are used in every batch/.

Is Strega used for flavoring cakes? Yes, Strega is used to flavor the famous dessert, Torta Caprese

What is Premio Strega? It is the Strega Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Italy. Since 1947, Guido Alberti, owner of Strega at that time, with the help of writer Maria Bellonci and husband Goffredo created this literary prize.

What is the history of Strega?  Giuseppe Alberti started the company in Benevento. The liquor, Strega, was developed in 1860. After Giuseppe’s passing, his four sons, Ugo, Vincenzo, Francesco and Luigi took over the company. Today, it still is a family fifth-generation run business.

What is the alcoholic content of Strega? Strega is 80 proof (40% alc/volume)

Why the name, Strega? Strega is an Italian word for ‘witch’. Benevento has long been considered the City of Witches, which dates back to the 7th century. Folklore says that the town has been a gathering place for the witches of the world.

Strega is considered a digestive and is always consumed after a meal. It is commonly served on the rocks or used in a variety of cocktails. Licorice and mint dominate the palate. There have been many Strega imitators during the years, but, there is only one Strega in the market.

At $35 a 750ml bottle, I think t is a great addition to any home bar. There is nothing like it. As my father used to say, Strega is good for the Sprirt!
                                                          Herbs and Spices

                                                                 The Distillery
                                                           Herbs and Spices
                                                 Over 50 imitators of Strega
                                                         Your author

Philip S.Kampe

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Guide to the 'Wine & Food Festival of New Paltz', April 22nd-24th at Mohonk Mountain House by Philip S. Kampe

This is the third year that I will attend the ‘Wine & Food Festival of New Paltz’, the brainchild of well known and popular wine educator, Kevin Zraly and wine and spirits importer, Sam Ramic, 

Add a staff of dedicated volunteers and wine judges from the International Wine Masters and you have a the makings of the premier New York state wine event. Why not make the event accessible to Manhattan, only 90 miles away and showcase the ‘Wine & Food Festival of New Paltz’ at the showplace of American historical hotels, the Mohonk Mountain House.

Why not invite the leaders of the wine and food industry to show their goods, hold seminars, create wine dinners, raise money for Cystic Fibrosis with a silent auction and stage celebrity chef demonstrations.

After a year of planning, on Friday, April 22nd, the ‘Wine & Food Festival of New Paltz’ will begin year three on the road of becoming the next major wine and food festival in America.

Visit the festival’s website, for the complete schedule.  The event will take place from Friday, April 22nd through Sunday, April 24th.

If you have not visited the Mohonk Mountain House, the spectacular retreat will literally knock your socks off. The Victorian castle was built in 1869 on cliffs above Lake Mohonk. The result is a European style hotel lodged in the scenic Hudson Valley of New York. Overnight reservations for the Mohonk Mountain House can be made by calling 888-976-0785


Members of the trade can receive on complimentary ticket per establishment for the April 23rd , 11am-4:30pm Grand Tasting.
Download the Trade Registration Form online for approval.
The form can be found at:
Event Schedule:
Friday, April 22nd
2-11pm  Registration
2-3pm  (Trade only) A Journey through Wine "A 40 Year Perspective" with Kevin Zraly (Suite 61)
3:30-4:30pm  (Trade only) Wine Seminar with Michael Weiss in the Sunset Lounge
4:45-5:30pm  (Trade only)  Sam Ramic is the moderator for ‘Trade Talk’ (Suite 61)

                                       The 'Saber Ceremony' featuring Sam Ramic

5:30-6:15pm  ‘La Mancha--Spain’s Awakening Giant’. Wine seminar with Mike Rupic (Sunset Lounge)
6:30-7pm  ‘Meet and Greet’ Welcome Reception featuring Sam Ramic’s ‘Saber Ceremony’. By Invitation Only (Sunset Lounge Porch)
7:30-10pm  Wine and Food Gala  (Main Dining Room)
Saturday, April 23rd
9-4pm Registration for day guests (Mountain View room)
11-Noon  "Old World Sparklers"—Wine Seminar with Steven Koplan (Sunset Lounge)
11:30-Noon  Trade/Press tasting in the Main Dining Room
12-4:30pm  Grand Tasting  (Main Dining Room)
12-12:45pm  Food Demonstration with Pastry Chef, Rose Beranbaum  (Main Dining Room)
12:45-2:15pm  White Wines of the Loire Valley and Red Wines of the Rhone Valley. Wine Seminar with Kevin Zraly  (Sunset Lounge)
1:15-2pm  Food Demonstration with PETER X. KELLY (Main Dining Room)
2-5:30pm  Red Carpet Cru Tasting  (Parlor)
2:30-3:15pm  Food Demonstration with SARA MOULTON  (Main Dining Room)
3-4pm  Wine & Food Pairing with Michael Weiss and Ric Orlando  (Sunset Lounge)
3:30pm  Food Demonstration with Rodanna Di Michele  (Parlor)
3:30-4:30pm  Food Demonstration with Marcus Guilliano  (Main Dining Room)
5-5:45pm  Wine & Cheese Seminar with Lou DiPalo  (Sunset Lounge)
5:45pm  Emperor Vodka Tasting with Zina Mashin  (Suite 61)
6:15pm   LAST shuttle to the parking lots  (Guest Services)
6:30-8pm Silent Auction to benefit Cystic Fibrosis  (Hall outside the Main Dining Room)
7:30-10:30pm  Dinner Dance  (Main Dining Room)
Sunday, April 24th
10:30-11:30am  Food Seminar with SARA MOULTON  (Sunset Lounge)
11-11:45am Biodynamic, Organic and Vegan Wines with Nadine Audray  (Mountainview)
11:30am  Champagne Brunch  (Main Dining Room)
11:30am  Food Seminar with Rose Beranbaum (Main Dining Room) beginning of brunch
1pm Awards Ceremony hosted by Sam Ramic  (Parlor)

Isn’t it time to escape the hustle and bustle of the world and sample over 700 wines from around the world at the incomparable Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York?
Be there or be square!!

Philip S. Kampe

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Campania, the Business & Tourist Hub of Europe by Philip S. Kampe

 Campania is one of the 20 provinces in Italy. It is located in southern Italy, where its waters, the Tyrrhenian Sea, are home to the famous islands in the Bay of Naples, legendary Capri and popular Ischia.

Everyone knows Campania, with its mild climate, legendary food, richness in art and its historic past. The capital of the Campania province is Naples, famous for its music, art, gastronomy, architecture and archeological sites.. Other regions within Campania include, Salerno, Avellino,  Benevento and Caserta,

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit this province and was quite mystified how important Campania ans its products are to the global world. Did you know that 40% of the Italian railway system runs through Campania?  What I discovered was that Campania is the true business and tourist hub of Europe.

After doing extensive research on the region, this is what I discovered.

Campania is the third most populated province in Italy, with nearly six million residents. With a little over 5,200 square miles, Campania is Italy’s most densely populated region.
Campania is derived from Latin. Originally, the Romans called the region, Campania felix, which translates as the ‘fertile countryside’. 

Central to Naples are the ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the magnificent temples at Paestum. The Bay of Naples is dominated by the infamous volcano, Vesuvius.

With San Marzano tomatoes, olive trees, olive oil from Cilento Sorrento,  Giffoni  and Montella hazelnuts, incredible fruits and vegetables, including Annurca apples, Amalfi and Sorrento lemons and world-class grapes for wine, Campania’s, fertile countryside still exists. The agro-food industry is one of the cores of Campania’s economy.

The cuisine of Campania varies from town to town. Pizza was conceived in Naples, as was fried pizza, calzone, pizza marinara and pizza Margherita. Pasta factories from Gragnano, as well as wine producers, famous for wines like Taurasi, Aglianico, Greco di Tufo and Fiano.

Spirits like Strega and Limoncello pair well with unparalleled Neapolitan delicacies such as baba, struffoli, zeppole and sfogliatella.

With extensive animal breeding, Campania is home to many famous cheeses, highlighted by Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) and Caciocavallo Silano.

Seafood shines in Campania, home of ‘insalata di mare’(seafood salad), ‘zuppa di polpo’ (octopus soup) and ‘zuppe di cozze’ (mussel soup).

Campania is bordered on the north by Lazio and Molise, to the east by Puglia and to the south by Basillicata.

Today, Campania has a little bit of everything for the traveler. The streets of Naples are vibrant and alive with young kids, much like Barcelona. There is new life in the historical city. Trendy Capri is nearby, as are the historic sites of Pompeii and Paestum, mentioned earlier. There are two national parks, Cilento-Vallo di Diano and Vesuvius Vulcano. The historical tourist centers include the Royal Palace of Caserta, Velia, Cuma and Oplonti.  The Amalfi coast, with its amazing beauty is home to Ravello, Positano and Furore.

Campania is home to over 20 million tourists a year. There are over 1,500 hotels and 100,000 rooms to let.

Industry is alive and well in Campania, highlighted by gold, coral and cameos from old artistic traditions in Marcianise and Torre del Greco. The silk factories of San Leucio emerged in 1778, thanks to King Charles of Bourbon. Textile and Fashion production leads the way in Italy, due to the nine towns and seventy firms in the Calitiri district. Solofra is one of the major areas for leather and tanning with over 500 factories. Famous Italian shoes are produced in the factories in Aversa e Grumo Nevano.

On my recent visit to Campania, I had the opportunity of working with the Chamber of Commerece’s of Naples,, Salerno, Caserta, Beneveto and Avellino. They are an important resource for any visit to the province. They work intimately with the 550,000 registered companies in Campania.

The office I worked with was the ‘Unioncamere Campania.
Visit their website at:  Telephone (+39) 081 410 91 23


                                                             Mount Vesuvius

                                                              Amalfi Coast


Philip S. Kampe

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tom Gore, Somoma's 'Farmer Winemaker' by Philip S. Kampe

Who is Tom Gore?

I just finished watching a short clip of his life story.  Tom Gore would be considered a winemaking farmer. His story begins, in the video, as Mr. Gore begins his life as a hardworking farmer. .One scene depicts Tom, driving his deceased fathers pick up truck. The link is obvious, Tom’s father taught Tom what he knows today.

Tom says, ‘it is all about soil and weather.’

Tom has taken this philosophy one step further and tells the farmers story through wine.

Tom’s says his true passion is grapes. Since he was three he wanted to become a grape farmer.

‘Truth be told, grapes are my greatest passion. After so many years, I’ve learned that every decision you make in the vineyard can affect the quality and flavor of the grapes. So, I craft grapes, using meticulous farming techniques. In the end, it’s a difference you can taste in the glass.’

With this point of view and the opportunity to sample two of Tom’s wine, I took the challenge. The two wines were the latest releases, the  2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.


                           Below are Tom's wines, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and the
                                  2014 Chardonnay, both from Sonoma (California)

After opening the Chardonnay, the aromatics of the wine overpowered my senses. It is obvious that Tom Gore understands the importance of a grape and what to do to it as it ages. The Chardonnay, from Sonoma, has a perfect, lively amount of acidity, which balances the creamy, velvety texture of the wine. Tropical aromas abound, highlighted by tropical fruit, such as papaya, mango, asian pear and kiwi. The 2014 Chardonnay is a unique interpretation and a wine that is worth trying.

The second wine, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon has intense concentrated dark fruit on the palate with hints of expresso, nutella and blackcurrant. The wine is glycerol and lingers on the palate. It’s medium body is soft, lacks heavy tannins and is a pleasure for the palate. The aromatics are somewhat tame, lots of concentrated dark fruit with a faint bouquet of vanilla.

Tom Gore Vineyards is the home of ‘A Farmer’s Wine’. Visit his website to learn more about this interesting winemaker:

Philip S. Kampe

Monday, March 21, 2016

Conundrum, the classic 'cult' wine celebrates it's 25th Anniversary by Philip S. Kampe

Years ago, I was introduced to a white wine that was a blend of various grapes. The wine was unique and quickly turned into an ‘underground’ wine at the time. It was 1991 and the wine was called ‘Caymus Conundrum’, a wine from the Wagner family.

As the years past, the name of the wine was reduced to ‘Conundrum’. This ‘underground’ wine was now considered a ‘cult’ wine.

Whenever an invitation to a dinner party appeared, the purchase of two bottles of this aromatic, white blended wine called Conundrum was my way in. I had the Conundrum story down pat and told the story over dinner to the party guests.

The story goes like this, Charles Wagner Sr., a co-founder of Caymus Vineyards, always played with his wines at the dinner table. He was always looking for the perfect glass of wine to accompany his food. (today,it is called a pairing)  At the dinner table, Charles Sr. would mix the various white wines on the table to create the perfect glass of wine. This was in 1972.

In 1989, Mr. Wagner was proud to announce the birth of Conundrum white, which was a mysterious blend of white grapes. His wine was considered to be both complex and versatile with food. Often, there were tropical notes, somewhat similar to today’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Other days, the bottles had different aromatics.

The uniqueness of Conundrum white was enough to create a ‘cult’ following and a worship of what really was in this bottle.

In 2011, Conundrum red was introduced to the market and like the white, the ever-changing blend of grapes and varied aromatics have made this wine an overnight success.

To this day, I always choose to bring a couple bottles of Conundrum, one white and one red, as gifts for a dinner party, as both blends tend to pair well with most foods.

Easter is around the corner. I am cooking for nine guests and have already purchased my Conundrum wine for the event.

This is the 25th Anniversary of Conundrum, a wine that will always be part of my life. For under $17 a bottle (red) and $13 (white), I get to tell my Conundrum story to a new group of friends.

In time,this may be their ‘cult’ wine of choice?


Philip S. Kampe

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"The World's Highest Vineyard" (10,207 feet) releases its first wine, the 2012 Colome Altura Maxima by Philip S. Kampe

Argentina’s Bodega Colome has the unique distinction of being the home of the ‘highest vineyard in the world.’ At approximately 10,207 feet, the vineyard produces a wine like none other in the world. Elevation in Argentina is a factor in quality. The rule is, the higher the better. Extreme weather and terrain create a thicker skin on the grape, making for a more complex flavor profile.

The 2012 Colome Altura Maxima ($125) is the first vintage released by the estate after ten painstaking years of understanding the environment and the conditions at this extreme altitude.

Colome is a family-run business and the crown of Hess Family Estates, of which there are seven worldwide.  Hess Family Estates evolved in 1844 as a company with a deep commitment to responsible business and agricultural practices. In its fourth-generation, besides new world wines, Hess focuses on properties, hospitality and contemporary art.

Bodega Colome was founded in 1831 and is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina.
Winemaker Thibaut Delmotte quest for the special Malbec resulted with the release of the Altura Maxima. He recently explained how difficult it was and is to keep tabs on a vineyard at that altitude. The wine is distinct, complex, bold, intense and unlike all others that I have sampled.

As a journalist, I feel extremely lucky to have sampled this historical release. Only 165, three-pack cases have been released.

There are four estate vineyards that comprise Colome: Altura Maxima (10,207 feet), El Arenal (8,530 feet), La Brava (5,740 feet) and Colome Estate (7,545 feet). All of the vineyards practice sustainable farming. Maibec was planted pre-phylloxera. Some vines are 160 years old.

Colome’s second label is Amalaya, Between the two labels, the five wines I sampled, in addition to Altura Maxima, are great values and retail for under $25 a bottle. These are the wines that should be on your radar.

2013 Colome Estate Malbec ($24)
100% Malbec
14.5% alcohol
Upper Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina
12,000 cases produced
!5 months in French oak barrique followed by 6 months in the bottle.
Floral aromas abound mixed with red raspberry, strawberry and mango. Acidity supports the dark plum and blackcurrant concentrated flavors. A peppery spice is absorbed during the long and lingering finish. It’s a classy wine that is ready to drink.

2014 Colome Malbec Autentico ($24)
100% Malbec
14.5% alcohol
Upper Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (7,545 altitude)
3,200 cases produced
The wine is intense in color, nearly black. The mixed aroma of candied cherries and figs dominate. My palate was full of crisp acidity. The concentrated fruit was robust with mature tannins that led to both balance and structure. The wine is lively and a show stopper.

2013 Colome Torrontes ($13)
100% Torrontes
13.5% alcohol
Upper Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (4,500 feet)
10,000 cases produced
This award winning very fruity wine is the perfect summer treat. Crisp light, refreshing and supple, with flavors of grapefruit, lemon and jasmine. One sip is never enough for this seductive wine

2014 Amalaya Malbec ($15)
85% Malbec  10% Syrah  5%Cabernet Sauvignon
14% alcohol
Upper Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (5,580 feet)
50,000 cases produced
A touch of strawberry, ripe raspberries and white pepper make a luscious bouquet before flavors of vanilla, hickory smoked bacon, black pepper and Indian spice merge on the palate. Robert Parker gave this wine, 90 points. Need I say more?

2015 Amalaya White Blend ($11)
85% Torrontes  15% Riesling
13% alcohol
Upper Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (5,500 feet)
12,000 cases produced
Citrus notes arouse the palate with flavors of lemon sorbet, honeysuckle and tumeric. Fresh and crisp, the blend of Riesling and torrontes shine on the palate. A stunning, bright wine at a fair price.

 As you can see, I am a big fan of all of these wines. The quality and price points make each bottle a value for the consumer.

Philip S. Kampe 

                                                          Philip S. Kampe

How Hungarian Cabernet Franc Changed My Life by Philip S. Kampe

My Dad was known to his friends as ‘Cab Franc.’ You see, his name was really Joseph and all of his social time with visiting frien...