Thank you, Nicola Paone

6/13/13 -

(Nicola Paone, 1947)


To make a long story shorter: we discovered that the restaurant (now closed) on E. 34th St called Nicola Paone had a fantastic wine cellar. The eponymous owner was a chart-topping singer, hugely popular with Italian-Americans; musically he might be best remembered for his number-one song, “Blah, Blah, Blah” (1958). The restaurant opened in 1959 and was an immediate success that became one of the top Italian restaurants in the city.  By the time we first went there in 1995, the glory days of Nicola Paone Restaurant were fading; out of dozens of tables it was rare that more than one or two were occupied, and the food was, to put it kindly, not very good (a fellow-dinner once wondered if perhaps we could “B.Y.O.F.”). But the cellar was very special, and the wine prices hadn’t been changed for many years. We drank lots of fine old Barolo and Tuscan wines, and we tasted Vallana Spanna for the first time. There were several vintages of Vallana from the 1950s and 1960s, all priced between $50-$60.The wines turned out to be profound examples of old Nebbiolo, a bit rustic in comparison to the wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, but fresh and vibrant and complex. For me they set a standard for Spanna and all wines of the Alta Piemonte that I don’t think can be matched. It’s no surprise that we’re not the only ones with fond memories of Vallana; the old wines are very hard to find, and they’re not so inexpensive anymore.


These are old vines in Campi Raudii trained in the old-style; most vines in the region are now conventionaly trained in rows on wire. A significant battle was fought here in BC 101, when the Romans consolidated their control of the region - hence the Latin name of 'Red Fields'.

It’s exciting that Vallana is being revived in the very capable hands of a new generation, and it’s going to be fun to see if the wines will eventually remind us of Vallana’s glorious past.  Meanwhile, the recent vintages of Vallana that we’re offering are really worth trying. JW

*To see live inventory - and thus determine which wines might already be sold - please follow the link to this article on the website. Once there, you can always refresh the page to view updated inventory.

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