The Best Wines to Stock in Your Bicultural Home

© Aeriel Brown

By Carson Demmond Posted June 22, 2016

Blue Hill’s Michelle Biscieglia shares 6 Italian bottles and 6 American ones

“I really could eat pasta every single day,” says Michelle Biscieglia, wine director for Blue Hill New York. So, it’s convenient that her husband, Italian-born chef Simone Bonelli of La Pecora Bianca, specializes in just that. “My favorite thing in the world is spaghetti pomodoro with Simone’s tomato sauce,” she adds. “He uses really great olive oil, sweats out shallots, and lets it simmer for hours… It’s unreal.” 

But while their tastes in food perfectly align, they’ve had to compromise on what wines to keep stocked at home. Bonelli’s palate inevitably leans Italian. “I think I have a broader sensibility because I taste more wines from all over the world than he does,” she says. In addition to their solid collection of Italian reds and whites, they’ve found another category they can both agree on: American wine.

Food & Wine: Michelle Biscieglia

Courtesy of Michelle Biscieglia

“Most of the American wines that we drink have some sort of Old World influence,” Biscieglia adds. “It just goes with how we like to eat and drink.”

Here, she shares 6 Italian bottles and 6 American ones they can both get behind.


1.    2015 Massican ‘Annia’ Napa Valley 
“I love Dan Petroski’s [of Massican] wines in general, but Annia is perennially my favorite out of his whole lineup. It’s Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, and Chardonnay, so basically a Friuli blend with a little Chardonnay in it. This particular vintage I love even more. It has a lot less Chardonnay than usual—like down to 10 percent from around 45 percent or so. It’s all bitter almond, slightly tropical fruit, a little citrusy acidity… I’ve bought it for the restaurant for the past two years and use it a lot in pairings with certain dishes. But at home, I love it with this chicory salad that Simone makes which is just amazing: chicory with anchovies and almonds. The richness of the wine plays off the bitterness of the lettuces. So good.” 

2.    2014 Bellwether 'Sawmill Creek' Seneca Lake Riesling
“Kris Matthewson [of Bellwether] is redefining wine in the Finger Lakes with his style. This one is more mineral and floral than fruity. It has a touch of that apricot-petrol thing, a great clean-and-lean quality, and the acid’s not too piercing. Just beautifully balanced and elegant. I really like Riesling, but I think Simone actually likes it more than I do; it’s kind of funny. If we’re out at a restaurant, he’ll always order a glass of Riesling to start. I think he likes the acidity and the freshness of it, but he also likes a touch of residual sugar—and so do I.”

3.    2015 Matthiasson Napa Valley Rosé
“This rosé is one we always have on hand for when we have people over for barbecues. I don’t know if it’s because we live in New York, where there’s a whole rosé craze, but the second the weather turns warm, I just want to sit outside in our backyard and sip rosé. Simone never liked rosé before we were together; he always thought of it as this sweeter style of wine. But he’s really come around to loving the light, fresher Provence-style versions, and this is that style but from California. It’s made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and has this bright, popping watermelon, juicy kind of flavor. It’s low in alcohol, at around 12.5 percent, and so refreshing that I could probably accidentally drink the whole bottle by myself.”

4.    2014 Arnot-Roberts North Coast Trousseau
“This red is so fun: bright and juicy, a little bit savory, a little bit peppery… It also has a mouthwatering acidity that’s really great for sipping outside in the summer, slightly chilled, while we’re grilling, the way you would something like a Beaujolais. Arnot-Roberts definitely fits that theme of having an Old World sensibility, but they’re also so dialed-in to California geography that you end up learning all about the regions while tasting through their wines. The Trousseau, for example, grows in the Luchsinger vineyard in Clear Lake AVA.”

5.    2012 Bloomer Creek Vineyard Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc 
“This wine might my favorite wine from the Finger Lakes, period. It has the ripeness that a lot of reds form the region lack. It has body, freshness… It has that touch of pepperiness, that dark red fruit that’s so soft and pretty. It’s just an elegant style of Cab Franc. Also, we always have salami here, and it’s one of my favorite things to drink if we’re snacking on sausage or a peppery, fennelly salami.”

6.    2012 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 
“Here, you have unmistakably Californian fruit, but the winemaking style is so restrained that it's a great example of how Napa expresses terroir. They’re located in Spring Mountain, so it’s a structured, tannic wine, but if you throw it into a decanter before throwing some sort of steak or rich meat on the grill, it opens up so nicely. It’s savory and a little smoky, and it strikes that balance of red and black fruits, with just a hint of rusticity. It’s such a good wine.”

7.    2013 Guido Marsella Fiano di Avellino 
“When you smell this wine the second you pour it, you know it’s from Campania. It couldn’t be from anywhere else. It has that ashy, smoky aroma that really pops. The fruit is very apple-y and fresh—very bright and a touch bitter. It’s great on its own, but it’s also really great with food, especially spaghetti vongole, you know, pasta with clams and chili peppers. It kills it with something like that.”

8.    2014 Bisson ‘U Pastine’ Portofino Bianchetta Genovese 
“Bianchetta Genovese is an indigenous variety usually used in basic Cinque Terre white blends, and Bisson is one of the few producers to bottle it individually. I’m a huge fan of Liguria in general; I love any salty style of white wine, but also: This is what we poured at our wedding, so we always keep bottles of it at home. It has those familiar floral base notes with a kind of salty-seaspray character that smells like the tide going in. It’s a perfect aperitif.”

9.    2012 Arianna Occhipinti Cerasuolo di Vittoria 
“I’d drink Cerasuolo any day, but I particularly love Arianna Occhipinti’s. It has so much going on: so elegant and floral, with this wild strawberry fruit and a touch of salinity… light, but still concentrated, with a wild, fennel-like quality that makes it seem a little bit savory. It’s not as deep and dark as an Etna red. Those wines are beautiful – with that smokiness of volcanic soil—but you can also feel that the vines have been beat by the sun. When you’re down in Vittoria, you don’t have that. The wines are more lifted; the fruit’s a bit fresher.”

10.    NV Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco
“We keep Lambrusco around all the time, because it’s from where Simone is from, in Emilia-Romagna. This one is made from the Grasparossa Lambrusco variety, which makes darker, more earthy and savory wines; it’s not your candied strawberry style of Lambrusco. It’s complex. It has these soft bubbles, and a nice balance of really bright fruit with that earthy almost foresty quality. It’s also awesome with a Bolognese sauce—a very classic style of pork ragù that we make here fairly often. You might not normally think of sparkling wine as a pairing for that kind of food, but the bubbles really help to cut through the fat of a good Bolognese.”

11.    2013 Cavalotto ‘Grign’ Langhe Grignolino
“Cavalotto is one of the great old school producers in Barolo that I’ve always liked, and their Grignolino is a really fun intro to Piedmontese wine. It comes from their Bricco Boschis vineyard… from these Grignolino vines that are like 40 or 50 years old in the heart of Barolo, which is so cool. Anyone else would have ripped up those vines to replant to Nebbiolo. Grignolino doesn’t have the tannin of Nebbiolo; it’s softer and a little bit juicier, but it has similar licorice and fennel aromas. It’s also a more affordable style of wine than Barolo AND more versatile and food-friendly. You don’t have to decant it for hours, you know? You can just pop and pour.”

12.    NV Marco di Bartoli ‘Vigna la Miccia’ Marsala 
“We were in Sicily for 10 days last year and planned only one winery visit, and it was to Marco di Bartoli in Marsala. I love their dry wines, I love their sweet wine from Pantelleria, I love everything they do, but their Marsalas are just beautiful. They’re a great way to either start or end a meal. Or if you’re having rich and salty cheeses—it’s a great wine for that. It’s so versatile, so refreshing, and a bit like Fino Sherry in many ways. I think it’s a shame that people think about Marsala as cooking wine; nobody thinks about drinking it. But if you have one like this—that has that great, rich nutty quality but is also so fresh and salty—this is the one to try.” 

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