If I were forced to choose only one country from which my wine would ever come again, I would shout "ITALY!" before the gun was even put to my head. No other country yields wine that can be so diverse, so smartly manage to be rustic and elegant at once, and love food as much as they love shining on their own. Our buddy Greg supplied us with a showing of amazing wines, ranging from modest Rosso to Giacosa Barolo.
The Coternas and Giasosas...I am not worthy.
I've had Piedmontese wines of all sorts before the tasting, except for Barolo. For years, its mystique was extolled to me by those who knew. I rushed through the tasting of all the other stuff, even skipping stuff, to get to the Big Boys. It wasn't until later I realized I'd made a mistake. NOTE TO SELF: Barolos need to be opened and drunk the next day. We decanted this baby for three hours, and still it was only partially awake. But, oh, the tiny aromas fighting to get to the surface...I only got a hint of them.
LESSON LEARNED: Barolos must be treated with respect.
What I did glean from tasting the Barolo was so different from my expectations. I must have anticipated they would be powerful in the way Brunello is powerful--full, rich, multilayered and BIG, but they aren't like that. The power is all in the aromatics and tannins. They're leaner and subtler than any wine I've ever tried. I can't wait to learn more about them.
We started with whites:
2003 Regillo Frascati, Tenuta De Pietra Porzia
Frascati...ah, one thinks of big bottles in grocery stores in this part o' the world. You get it for free, I think, instead of water in its own hometown of the same name in Lazio. But, brothers and sisters (can I get a Witness?) I am here to preach the Gospel about cheap white wine: GET IT FROM ITALY. It does not suck.
It had a curious, Sauvignon Blanc-ish nose to it, and was clean, suprisingly rich and imminently quaffable. I forgot to get the price from Greg, but I would hope it wasn't over ten bucks. Otherwise, it'd be overpriced.
2003 "La Funambola" Erbaluce Di Caluso
Okay, fine, it's Bonny Doon. But it's made in Italy, so it counts as Italian. Erbaluce is a tee-niny DOC in Piedmont near the city of Caluso; the grape Erbaluce is usually made into a sweet white. I've only had one other dry Erbaluce with which to compare this wine, and it was much higher in acidity and a better food wine. But this Bonny Doon comes from the infamous HOT 2003 vintage, so acid is lower and fruit is phatter, so it was almost a different creature altogether.
But not bad at all. The nose had a fresh-air quality, with a bit of lemon and white flowers. Think: clothes washed in Citrus Fresh Arm & Hammer. The palate was bright, smooth and clean with a little almond to it. Maybe a better porch sipper, though, than a food companion.
2003 La Planeta Chardonnay
For me, drinking quality, modern-style, New-world Chardonnay is like taking a bite out of an enormous coconut macaroon filled with butter. That first taste is decadent and pleasing, but after that, get that nasty thing out my face.
This Chard is clearly intended to appeal to Cal Chard fans. It is a big, bright gold affair with rich coconut/apple/creme brulee flavors. The main difference, though, between this and a lot of other NW Chards is that this one had sufficient acidity to carry these voluptuous flavors through to a crisp finish. How that happened in 2003, I know not. I'd recommend this Chard to someone who has to buy a bottle for a Cal Chard lover but doesn't want to buy yet another bottle of Rombauer.
On to the reds...
2001 Parrina Rosso2002 Falesco Merlot Umbria
I'm told this wine has its own little DOC in Tuscany. As in , just this wine. Hmm...someone had connections...
It's almost all Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot, and it goes, I think, for around nine or ten bucks. It's classic Sangio--dried leaves, cherries, bright acidity. Good deal, I'd say.
2001 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre
This used to be one of my favorites. A sort of odd take on a Valpolicella Ripassa:
70% of the grapes picked are vinified immediately. The remaining 30% are left to dry until the end of December when they are vinified and re-fermented with the wine from the fresh grapes. The result is higher alcohol content, rounder style, lower acidity and more extraction than a Valpolicella Classico.
I don't remember the wine being so low acid and rich, and frankly, I think my tastes have changed. This didn't really move me. Or maybe my palate was pooped. I took a break after this one.
2001 Regaliali Rosso
An old favorite, reasonably priced. A Nero D'Avola-based wine with warm, dried cherry nose, a bit of spice on the palate, and pleasant tannins. Totally beautiful with the pizza Matt made.
I've decided that Italy is one of my favorite places to look for Merlot. I've had this one a while ago, and was likewise pleased with it. If you're looking for one that DOESN'T taste like Chocolate-flavored cherries Jubilee,
but rather like rich, deep, savory Merlot, check it out.2001 Sole di Sesta Cottanera Syrah, Sicily
this is a dark purple beauty with a rich smoky fruit nose and a nice backbone of acidity to hold it up. Beautiful.
Towards the middle of our tasting, I had the great pleasure of finally seeing the portrait my dear friend Stephen Schwolert had made for me. OMFG, what a painter! For this lovely work, he received a bottle of 1999 Clos Du Caillou 'Quartz' Chateneuf Du Pape. (Oh, yeah, and a shitload of money for the painting!)
After the tasting was "officially" over, the boys decided that a Metallica Retrospective was in order. What can I say? We're all possessed of many, many interests.
At last, we got the munchies and tore into a grand variety of dark chocolate cookies, along with a cold, fizzy bottle of:2003 Marenco 'Pineto' Brachetto D'Acqui
Sooo delicious! Roses, strawberries and sweet nothings in your ear. A perfect, and I mean PERFECT, companion for dark chocolate. Blissful.
Special cheers to Stephanie for the gorgeous grub, to the Hub for cleaning up after, and to Greg, for the opportunity to check out so many fantabulous wines.
Ciao and Clinkies.