. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: May 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Day VI

It was, as I had hoped, another gorgeous day. I woke up at 8:30, ready for winery-hopping, and after a nice refreshing shower and a typical Italian breakfast, consisting of espresso and cornetti, I started out to do my - "tasting".
The first stop was in Torrenieri, where Wine Circus and La Stazione del Vino are located. There I was welcomed by Billy, Cipresso's assistant.
The project is magnificent: for La Stazione del Vino, they are renovating the old Torrenieri station, which is where the "wine travelers " end their trip. On the second floor, there was a tasting and multimedia room in progress, where people can watch and taste wine.
The second building will house the wine museum, with the second floor containing a room for conventions and symposia. And across the railroad is where the wine is made (the Wine Circus is a cellar were selected grapes from around Italy come to be turned to nectar).
Billy took me for a tour, and then started filling the glasses. First, he poured a nice Cesanese, a grape from Lazio that tends to be floral and peppery. This particular sample had been resting in the barrel for some time. - It is not easy to judge a wine coming from the barrel, you have to find the flavors that are hidden in the wine's youth. Obviously, the wine was still very green, and the wood flavors were predominant, but it was very promising. With the Cesanese, I was able to taste the same wine from 2 recipients with different "toasting marks" (every barrique is marked with the wood used and the "toast" level, which is responsible for the smoky flavors to a wine).
After that, it was time to have a taste of the Castello di Vicarello. Roberto had spoken to me about this estate and the owner, Carlo Baccheschi Berti, during the dinner in Osti; it is a great project that could only be realized by way of a crazy mind and varied assets; but - Carlo's creation is going to be the subject of a future post. I tasted the 2006 vintage from two different barrels, as with the Cesanese.
Once again the wine was a baby, but it was a baby with an already big voice, something like Baby Herman. We kept on going, tasting various wines and talking about Billy's experiences in Australia, and how it has affected his training as a winemaker. -Sooner or later, I need to go there, rent a motorcycle and travel around wineries...
It was time to move on to my next stop; Casanova di Neri!
I used to carry Giacomo Neri's wines long long ago, at Il Bagatto before they went with another distributor. I always like the Tenuta Nova for the power and elegance that it showed. -
I went in without an appointement, but Giacomo was kind enough to take some time and show me around; while he was finishing with his current appointment, I tasted the new releases in their tasting room: 2001 Brunello, 2005 Rosso, 2001 Brunello Cerrealto and the 2004 Pietradonice.
The Rosso was medium bodied, with fresh cherries flavors and leather hints. The Brunello was full with dark cherries in the bouquet, and flavors of wet saddle... very long, and still tight, as it should be. the Cerrealto had firmer wood flavors and higher complexity, silkier and more mature tannins. The Pietradonice, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, was more international in style, velvety full and round in the palate, slightly peppery with pleasant flavors of fresh berries.
Then Giacomo took me into their new cellars, three stories built underground (the deepest part of the cellars are 75 feet below the surface). It was, I must say, a state of the art "cantina".
The grapes are recieved and selected at ground level, and using only the power of gravity, are transferred to the 1st level underground, where the stainless and steel tanks are.
After the fermentation, the wine is transferred into barriques (again using gravity) on the 2nd level down. The temperature and the humidity are naturally controlled, thanks to the material and some clever construction ideas.
Here, juices undergo malolactic fermentation and stay for one year; the wine is then transferred to the bottom level (gravity again) and placed in second-hand barriques for at least one year before being bottled and stored in an adjacent room. Here also, the temperature and humidity are naturally controlled and the winery operates successfully, leaving a very small carbon print.
It was time to go again, and after I thanked Giacomo for his time.
My next stop was at Pian Dell'Orino, a small winery owned by Jan and Caroline. Jan is a winemaker who spent a few years in France as part of his training. Caroline's family owns the Castel Katzenzungen in Alto Adige, where the oldest and largest vine of Europe (over 350 square meters (3768 square feet) and 350 years of age, for a production of 600 bottles) live and grow; 600 bottles, that is, of a very good white wine from just one plant - that's intriguing.
Jan came and welcomed me, surrounded by dogs, left and right. Just behind him was Caroline, wearing an apron. I hadn't looked at my watch, but it was lunch time, and I think I interrupted their meal.
I felt bad but they were happy to see me again - we had previously met in NYC, and Caroline told me to have a seat and share some salad and cheese.
During lunch, Jan opened up an unlabeled Rose, made from Sangiovese. They produce that wine for themselves, but I suggested them to label it and sell it - a full rose, dry with elegant flavors of fresh cherries.
Then he opened up a bottle of Brunello from the 2002 vintage; a very difficult year, but the wine was still powerful and structured. It was interesting to hear Jan taking pride in making an outstanding product in such a difficult year.
After lunch, he took me to his new cellars, also well-built and underground, using gravity to move the juices to the different levels. Jan as well built the cellars so that he has no need for a forced climatization system.
All of a sudden, it was 4 PM, and after saying goodbye to Pian dell'Orino, I went to visit my good friends at Winemaking in Castelnuovo dell'Abate.
Winemaking is Roberto's company with a team of Agronomists, Winemakers and Accountants created to follow the life of a winery in every aspect of the business.
After a quick chat with Maurizio Saettini, I jumped in the car again for the last visit of the day: La Fornace.
La Fornace is a small winery owned by the Giannotti family. When I arrived, Fabio was parking his tractor, as he had just finish some treatments on the fields. His cellars are on on a single level, and he has an air conditioning system, so he can control the temperature in the different vinification phases.
We tasted the 2005 and 2006 Brunello from the barrels and the 2004 Riserva, as many told so far it looks like the vintages are getting better from 2004 to 2006, and considering the 2004 was an excellent year I'll be looking forward for the 06's to be released.
Wow. What a day. The sun was getting low over the horizon and the sky started to show some pinkish colors - it was finally time to go home for the first time in 4 years.
To Be Continued...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day IV and V

For the first time since I'd landed in Italy, I finally managed to sleep until late and had a totally relaxed day.
I woke up around 12 and slowly came back to life; met up with Filippo and the others for some lunch and then headed to Tavon, where the "La Pineta Hotel and Spa" was about to give me a long relaxing afternoon.
Sauna, Turkish bath, Roman bath, aromatic showers and a swimming pool with small waterfalls to massage your neck and shoulders... a more-than-memorable menu of fare was what this underground Spa had to offer. And even that might be an understatement.
After expelling a good quantity of toxins (for almost the entire afternoon), we were all relaxed and ready for a small dinner. We went to Dennis again for some wood oven pizza and some other delicacies. I must say, we all were all a bit off from the long long (long) night, so there was not much drinking involved, even to the point at which, I believe, I drank more water than wine... unheard of!!!
It was time to end this relaxed Sunday with some well-deserved rest.
The following morning was crispy and sunny, the perfect conditions for a nice trip to Montalcino, where I was expected for dinner at Roberto Cipresso's house. Before I left, we had a light (maybe it wasn't so light but surely lightER) meal at "Baita 7 Larici," a very nice restaurant in the middle of a "Larici" forest; they specialize in fish - sea, river and lake varieties, with an obviously good selection of typical plates like the Deer Ravioli, which was my choice.
It was time to hug Filippo and Elisabetta, don my sunglasses, lower the top of the car, and head toward Montalcino.
Once again, I found myself on the Adige wine trail to San Michele, where i got on the Autostrada to Verona, and then headed towards the Modena where I got on the famous "A1".
The weather was great and I think I got little burned from driving with the top down, but it was worth it. I passed Modena, land of Lambrusco, Prosciutto and Piadine, and got into the Appennini where I began the descent toward Florence. I left the A1 at the Certosa Exit in the heart of the Chianti, following the "Strada Statale" until Siena and then got on the Cassia that would bring me directly to Montalcino.
After a 4-hour drive, I've arrived at the Hotel Bellaria, were Roberto had booked a room for me. It was a nice little place: very quiet on the road to Grosseto. There was still a little sunlight, so I got back in the car and drove around to find a nice place to see the sunset. The perfect spot was few kilometers ahead of my Hotel, near Soldera wineries. The sun was orange and warm, and it was so intense that I felt like a battery under charge. The bright orange had milder reflections in the sky and the whole scene seemed an acquerello picture.
It was time to meet up with Roberto, at his house in Castelnuovo dell'Abate, for supper and to have a friendly chat.
He cooked some nice Pennette al Pesto, and drank with it a single-vinyard Falanghina from La Sibilla, full with the typical tropical flavors of Pineapple and Banana skins. We then had a great bottle of Malvasia from Miani with some cheese and cold cuts. We had a great chat about our next project: one barrique (300 bottles), with grapes selected from 3 great Brunello producers (La Fiorita, La Magia and L'Oliveto) with our own label (which I'm currently working on). We also talked about his two new big projects - La Stazione del Vino and the Wine Circus, which I visited the next day, and about life in general and how difficult is to be on the road constantly like he is. It was a great evening... it was cool to see on of the most famous winemakers in the world dealing with his two children, Matteo and "Ringhio" Giammarco, being a good father and a great host...
Sadly, it was then time to leave Roberto. He had to get up around 5 to attend a conference on Terroir in Teramo the next morning, and I had a long day of winery visits in front of me, so I got in my car and drove to the Hotel and let Morpheus take me in his soporific hands.
To Be Continued...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Wedding Day III

What a tedious sound is the alarm at 6 30 AM I must say I was still tipsy from the night before; so involving a lot of inner force and self discipline I managed to crawl into the shower to try to resume some functionality.
One thing I like of big luxury hotel chains is the "buffet breakfast" so with that as motivator I got ready and walked down into the restaurant around 7 AM.
The buffet was filled with eggs in different style, English muffins, pancakes, sliced bacon, cold cuts and cheeses, soups, potatoes, yogurts and everything else you might imagine, included the possibility to get a nice french toast .
After a good amount of eggs some bacon, few sweet sausage and 3 espresso I was definitely back on track and ready to go.
The flight was smooth and on time; in Verona the weather was cloudy but still very warm so I lower the top and drove again toward the Adige valley and once again the white flowered apple trees were saluting me under a mild breeze and a warm sun now.
After a nap and another shower it was time to get ready for church; all dressed up I met the others at Dennis's bar were a nice aperitif was set up. Delicious crostini some with caviar, some with mushrooms and all other delicacies were lying on the main table. On the other side of the porch there was the drinks table were, with surprise, I've found the Foss Marai Extra Dry Prosecco along with a big bowl of Spritzer which I've attacked after a nice cold glass of the Prosecco.
I spotted then Fede, the Strudel man that gave me a delicious apple pie for Mr. Koeppel, he is an Italian blogger and it was a pleasure meeting him in person after exchanging comments on the Internet world. It was wedding time Filippo, Christian and I took place on the front right of the church, our friendship goes back over 20 years and I must say we had our share of fun doing stupid things like...no I can't tell you about that sorry :)
Sfrutz's church is small and beautiful, white flowers were all around and the best sheets were out for the bride and the groom. The Bride, Elisabetta, was fashionable late and very beautiful, the ceremony went on pretty smoothly until the end when the bride of honor and I signed as witness on the church book. Filippo and Elisabetta were married now.
The dinner was served at the "Rifugio Sores", there we were welcome by Oysters, Beluga Caviar, Scottish smoked salmon and few trays of local cheeses and cold cuts.
All this "ben di Dio" was paired by some Magnums of Moet Chandon, kept cool in a large silver bowl. The Champagne disappeared pretty fast as well as the caviar and the rest of the appetizer.
The second part of the dinner was a buffet Trentino style with two kinds of polenta, Bianca and Nera, lamb shanks, veal stew and more delicious game meat.
The wine of choice was the Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano which was perfect for the food, the Teroldego is such a distinctive grape that needs high altitudes usually grown in Trentino Alto Adige but you can find it also in Veneto and Tuscany. In the Adige the Teroldego is used as the house pour in most of the local restaurants and bars, now the simple house version (not the Foradori) I tried up there were somewhat complex but most important they were clean and didn't pretend to be what they were not, in a way a reflection of the "Trentini" way of be.
Why is that here in the States this category of products do not exist?
A cheap wine here has to taste like something that is not, that is what you obtain with the use of the wood chips or other cellar tricks.
Back to the wedding the night progressed with the cake and after dinners that lead us to the open bar.
After couple of amaros I switched to beer and kept going until 4 in morning when Filippo and I joined for a night cup on my room's balcony and enjoy each other company for few more minutes talking about the past and the future.
Auguri Filippo I wish you a very happy life with Elisabetta.
To Be Continued...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day II

After few hours of rest, here we start again; at breakfast I was offered some grappa (10 am) which I kindly refused (I guess I'm getting old), but I couldn't refuse the "Spritz", a refreshing cocktail made from prosecco and aperol with some soda and a slice of orange, without being harrassed by the "Nativi." - I would like to say something about that; now, I used to wake up in the early 90's (by my girlfriend at the time) and have a gin and tonic around 10 o clock. This is after I've spun records until 4 am, and before starting work in a local radio station at 12 am until 5 pm. After that, I'd start again with an aperitife, dinner and back to djing until 4 again. This, without mentioning the after work dinners and down time.
So I don't consider my self a lightweight, but I can't do grappa anymore, especially early in the morning, without feeling the Etna in my stomach.
After a few Spritzs, we had lunch under a luminous and warm sun surrounded by pines and grass in a place so quiet that not even cell phones were able to work. Again the wine, a Marzemino, wasn't the star but it was perfect for the situation. Foodwise, I had Salmerino (a river fish smilar to a Trout), some deer ravioli, a salad and some espresso to finish it up.
It was time for me to get on the road again to Verona, where an Alitalia flight was about to take me to Fiumicino.
That night I was expected in Ostia for a fish-based dinner at La Vecchia Pineta, a landmark restaurant, already famous when my father was my age.
The dinner was hosted by Daniel Oliveros in Cipresso's honor and the wines were based on Burgundy; the plates were flowing like the wine in the glasses; the savvy barriqued chardonnays were as distinctive as the raw "tartufo di mare" we had as an appetizer. The wines names were clear at the beginning, but slowly faded into Bacchus hands (and obviously I didn't take notes or pictures... sorry!). What I do remember was the 1996 Salon we had after we were done with the red brother of a white burgundy in a magnum format... I know, I know, I should have taken a picture with my phone, but I was overwhelmed by the company, the wines, and the Jet Lag (and probably by the early Spritzers). I promise you that after the wedding, I got much more professional with pictures and names - but for now, bear with me. So the evening ended with some drunken and deep talk with Fabio Leccisoti, which involved soccer (more specifically Lazio) and a past expirience that we are both glad to be part af the past indeed, and that splendid champagne that is Salon.
Fabio then took me back to my Hotel, the Hilton in the Fiumicino airport, for a few hours of sleep before another plane would take me back to Verona again.
Tomorrow - wedding. Big day, and an even bigger night...
To be continued

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ahh il Bel Paese day I

My Italian tour came to an end and I'm happy to be back.
In this trip I've learned and saw a lot of new things, at least 4 first release of wineries t need to be followed closely.
My story starts in Milano Malpensa were my plane landed around 9 am; my friend Filippo pick me up and we direct his Volvo convertible with the top down towards Sfruz in Trentino Alto Adige, a small town were Filippo was going to marry with Elisabetta. The "Autostrada" brought us through the Franciacorta fields were some of the best Italian "bubbles" are bottled, and then into the Valpolicella area after we turn, north of Verona, towards the Brennero pass.
On the way up to the Adige valley on my right the famous "Vigneti di Monte Lodoletta" was budding under the savvy guidance of Romano dal Forno in the 80 degrees weather, we passed by Negrar saluting the Veneto region into Trentino.
Sometimes abstinence is good, I used to came around here at least once at year for the Vinitaly and I took these places for granted like I did when I lived in Rome; after four years I felt like a tourist in my own town.
We got out of the Autostrada at San Michele all'Adige exit and walked in the Eppian region of Alto Adige, which is one of the many "Strade del Vino" we have in Italy, as soon after you pay the tolls you can spot the Mezzacorona and the Rotary Spumante cellars, followed by the Ferrari ones (no! not the cars... the Spumante makers!!!).
After that just small producers filled with Teroldego and Lagrein vines that is the core of the Alto Adige viticulture.
Now the funny thing is that the first part of my trip wasn't supposed to be about wine, and the first hour the sight was filled with straight "filari" of grapes from the Pinot Bianco and Pinot Noir in Franciacorta to the noble grains of Corvina and family in Veneto ending up with Lagrein and Teroldego with parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero.
Drastically, and really it took just one turn to completely change the scenario, we went from grapes to apples in the famous Val di Non were Sfruz is sited.
We got to our destination serenaded by blowing apple trees facing the Brenta group of mountains, which includes Madonna di Campiglio, into the "Rifugio Sores" for a shower and some rest.
The day finished then with a nice dinner at Dennis's restaurant with the house Lagrein and a great "Stinco" that had spend the afternoon in the oven.
It was time to have a night cup sided with some catching up with Filippo and then some deserved sleep after all tomorrow I have to be for dinner in Ostia with Roberto Cipresso and friends.
To be continued...