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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

Old Italian Reds at an Old-School Italian

Castellare di Castellina Toscana I Sodi di San Niccolo 1997

Thomas Matthews
Posted: June 28, 2012

Manducatis is an old-school Italian restaurant in a gritty Queens neighborhood called Long Island City. It was opened in 1977 by Vincent Cerbone and his wife, Ida, the chef. They’re both still going strong, but the restaurant is now in the capable hands of their son, Anthony.

We went for dinner recently with our friends Marty and Jamie. We entered through a bar that looks like it’s been there forever and were escorted through a door into the back to a series of small dining rooms. The decor is basic, but welcoming, and the longtime servers make you feel at home. The menu is basic, too, with old-school classics like linguine with clam sauce and veal marsala. But homemade pasta, fresh ingredients and a deft touch in the kitchen make the dishes as satisfying as they are hearty.

The restaurant’s true strength is its wine list, page after page of well-aged Italian reds priced like yesterday. Curious how the great 1997 vintage was faring, and forcing myself to stay under $100, I considered Castello di Volpaia’s Coltassala and Produttori del Barbaresco’s Rio Sordo Reserva, but on Anthony’s recommendation settled on I Sodi di San Niccolo from Castellare di Castellina. This top producer in Chianti Classico makes a wide range of wines; I Sodi is their top cuvée, made from Sangiovese with Malvasia Nera.

The I Sodi 1997 was delicious. Still rich and plush, it offered plum, dried cherry, tobacco and coffee flavors, smooth and balanced; I rated it 92 points, non-blind. Released at $60, it was a steal on the list at $95. Thanks, Anthony, for standing up for the best of Italy.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review and 1997 retrospective tasting note for Castellare di Castellina Toscana I Sodi di San Niccolo 1997 (93 points, $60).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red wines from Tuscany.

Josh Moser
Sunnyvale, CA —  July 4, 2012 12:32pm ET
That is a great price for that wine. If you went to another restaurant in NYC, that wine would probably be on the list for $180.

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