Author Archives: Ernest Ifkovitz

Eating in Piemonte’s Roero (3 places)

The Roero is a wine growing area just north of the more famous Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco). The grape variety Arneis put the area on the map, hopefully their profumato Nebbiolo on sandy soil will keep it there. Instead of seeing just vines lining the countryside, you’ll notice patches of woods and hiking trails. This is a good thing if you enjoy rabbit, or that miracolo della natura, tartufo bianco (white truffles).  You didn’t think they were sourced from Alba, did you? Tartufi were once a humble ingredient found in the cucina povera of the area. I find eating them even today in the Roero more charming than in Langhe, and not only because they can often be cheaper.

Ernest.

ROERO (3 suggestions):

1. Ristorante all’Enoteca / Chef Davide Pallude
(Via Roma, 57, 12043 Canale CN, tel. 017 39 58 57)

Italians bring panache to jeans. Stylish well-cut jeans, matched with an ironed shirt and blazer, or a top, et voilá! one’s got just the outfit that fits the vibe at a classy but unfussy place like Ristorante all’Enoteca, with chef Davide Pallude. If you don’t have fitted jeans, there’s a more casual Osteria downstairs. Both places are at the same location as the regional Roero Enoteca, so you’ll find a deep and Roero-wide, wine list. Order a bottle of the white Arneis to get thing going (a few producers are fermenting with some skin contact to good results). If it’s Fall and something on the menu says tartfuo, you say: Sì, grazie! Order an aged Roero DOCG wine (Nebbiolo grape as in Barolo) and you’ll be a part of the history of this relatively newer appellation, as this is the place where many Roero producers come themselves for a fine dining dinner, while drinking and checking in on other Roero producer’s wine. In fact, that’s what’s so cool here. There are locals who love wine and food, a bit of the international crowd, wine producers, and a convivial air and conversation amid all very serious food and wine. This is a model enoteca risotorante for other areas of Italy. (Grazie to Angelo Ferrio from Cascina Ca’ Rossa for bringing me here on the spur of the moment almost a decade ago.)

cardi-gobbi-castagne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Ristorante Il Centro
(Via Umberto I, 12041 Priocca, tel. 0173 61 61 12)
I think they got a Michelin star a few years ago, so the Cordero family and Co. is now expected to be en ponte. That said, this place has had it going on for years now; you’ll find no snobbery or tightness in the dining room air. I’ve never had a less than a stellar meal here. The well-managed wine cellar neither too big (read: you’re still ready the wine-Bible list and your friends are ordering dessert), or too small; there are no filler bottles or producers, and the owners and sommeliers are great at thinking of what why you might enjoy with being overly analytical. Food is precise but not fussy, perfectly cooked, and with the best materia prima (raw ingredients).  One of the classic antipasti, on the rounds that come out at the start of a meal in Piemonte, is a sweet-sour one-two punch of roasted peppers with a slice of anchovy, and a few drops of wine vinegar. It’s very simple, but delicious and easily replicated all over piemonte (and maybe your next dinner party). Il Centro’s is looks and tastes better. Val del Prete’s Arneis we import is a great match.

ristorante-il-centro-priocca-piatti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Trattoria Tre Galline
(Piazza Trento E Trieste 71, 12043 Canale, tel. 0173 97 97 99)
Sometimes a simple lunch with lots of local character is just the thing. A plate of home made pasta Tajarin with local mushrooms, or maybe a small plate of carne cruda. This is the perfect humble lunch place for both, or just one of them. Wine list is small but there are a few gem local producers. Enrico Cauda and his brother Manuele from Cascina Fornace took me here a few years ago.tajarin

 

 

 

Ernest’s Short List for Eating in Piemonte’s Monferrato (9 places)

People traveling to Italy often ask me for my short list of places to go, since I live here and always am eating and drinking my way around. This is for the area around Nizza Monferrato, where the historic winery Scarpa is located. Unlike Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco), the shy Nizza Monferrato hills offer many off the beaten track places, with a dusty vintage feel about them. I love the sense of discovery here, and so does my wallet.  Since this is Barbera land, it’s a great time to enjoy the various iterations of Barbera: fresh and direct, aged, modern vs. traditional, etc. If you want to branch out from Barbera, don’t forget the those kinky piemonte grape varieties: Grignolino, Freisa, Ruché, and Brachettto. Martina Barosio from Scarpa has introduced me to quite a few of these places. The descriptions are mine.

Here’s my general travel rant: Travel Tips for Eating and Drinking in Italy.

NIZZA MONFERRATO (9 suggestions):foto_madonna_della_neve_550x733

1. Le Due Lanterne
(downtown Nizza, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi 52, Nizza Monferrato; tel. 0141 702480).
No website. You can hit all the Piemonte greats or just order a plate of carne cruda to have with the grissini you’ve already started eating. When cardoons are in season – get an order. Though, you’lll be tempeted by the agnolotti dal plin (with ragu or butter and sage). Ok wine list, I’ve found some Freisa and Grigolino that were fun lunch wines, in addition to a solid Barbera selection, and you will too. No lodging.

2. Bun Ben Bon
www.bunbenbon.com (Strada Vecchia D’asti 66, Nizza Monferrato; tel. 0141 726347).
Solid piemonte country fair with a place for the kids to pull each other’s hair outside. Mind you, country fair in piemonte is always a notch more refined. Antipasti rounds have the classic peppers with bagna caoda and the always weird to me insalata russa (Russian potato salad). Someone should write an article as to how that got introduced into the piemonte antipasto parade. Lots of dishes with hunters and priests in title, split one with someone at the table, as the portions are large. I hear there’s a wine list somewhere (good luck).

3. Ristorante Belbo da Bardon
(Via Valle Asinari 25, San Marzano Oliveto; tel. 0141 831340).
No website; a must-visit. You won’t leave here hungry or thirsty, you may not leave here. Great cellar that stocks old vintages of local growers as well as a smattering of Burgundy and Champagne.

4. Ristorante Nuovo Parisio
http://www.ristorantenuovoparisio.it/ (Piazza Giuseppe Verdi 3, Acqui Terme; tel. 0144 442196).
No website; one of the oldest family restaurants in Aqui and no pretension whatsoever. This is what you do: start a vintage Krug with the vitello tonnato, because you deserve it and you know that sounds good. Then, order a chilled Barbera for the excellent Cannelloni. While you’re ordering your Barbera, you’re asking about Monfortino vintages, right? The meat courses you will eat whole instead of splitting.

5. Madonna della Neve
www.ristorantemadonnadellaneve.it (Regione Madonna della Neve, Cessole; tel. 0144 850402).
It’s an historical restaurant and B&B. A simple and humble place that has a unique dish i ravioli al tovaglio (where you eat ravioli on a cloth napkin instead of plate), and then roll upstairs to bed and get under your covers. Great little secret this place.

6. Agriturismo Albarossa
www.agriturismoalbarossa.com (Strada Bricco 49, Nizza Monferrato; tel. 0141 702054).
Very humble, very old school. If you want en pointe starry service and presentation, this isn’t the place, but it’s genuine through and through and there are beds upstairs. Web site is horrible (always a good sign in Italy).

7. La Villa Hotel
www.lavillahotel.net (Via Torino 7, Mombaruzzo; tel. 0141 793890).
As you see in the name, you can sleep and eat, and sleep and eat some more, here. Country chic place and food; wine list is a bit more than adequate. Couples seems to be happy here – maybe it’s the clawfoot tub.

8. Trattoria della Posta Da Camulin
(Via Fratelli Negro 3, Cossano Belbo; 0141 88126).
Web site doesn’t work – welcome to Italy! A traditional place that’s easy on the wallet. Antipasto, primo, secondo are all obligatory. Service is old-school, meaning the servers are also grandparents; the white table clothes are starched and ironed by the great grandparents. You’d be hard pressed to find cheaper or more soulful plate of tajarin al tartufo bianco in all of piemonte. You’ll cry after eating them and they will tell you “It’s ok – we understand,” as they ask for your secondo order. No tourists. Wine list: you’ll find something delicious. Don’t go looking for inexpensive unicorns, luxury bottles, or aged wines. Sleep in your car (we all know you’re going to order two plates of pasta). A favorite of mine so don’t tell too many people.

9. Il Cascinale Nuovo
www.walterferretto.com (Strada Statale 231, Isola d’Asti; tel. 0141 958166).
Young chef with a Michellin star. Excellent food that doesn’t breakdown into the grotesque the materia prima; increasingly interesting wine list. Clean simple minimal-modern rooms.

Luigi Tecce. Taurasi.

We’re thrilled Luigi Tecce and his wines are in PortoVino’s portfolio. There’s a mix of information on the internet (especially in Italian) about Luigi. We fact-checked with Luigi over the last few months to make sure we got it right. If you haven’t tried his wines, you’re missing a piece of the the wine puzzle for Southern Italy.  Read more…

portovino_luigi_tecce_cucina

Alice’s A Fondo: a Bottle-Fermented Madonna and Whore

portovino_alice_a_fondo_dettaglioIn the last few years, I’ve tasted heaps of Prosecco colfondo, with the lees left in the bottle. They were often intriguing, at least for first sip or so. Yet, most of them tired my palate with their piddling fizz. Amici, an enjoyable (not to mention serious) sparkling wine needs to cleanse thy tongue. Bristling-ly.

Most, too, were one-note wonders and sempliciotti / simpletons, with obvious, over-lees-y toasted bread notes, and too much under-ripe grapefruit pith.  

If Alice was going to make a colfondo, it wasn’t going to be hipster. There’s lots of bar chatter and Kool-Aid being swallowed about how these represent the ‘real’ Prosecco. That’s bullshit / Che stronzata! It’s just a another way to explore the Glera grape and Prosecco’s territorio and terroir. Another time and place for that, but to get into it just a little: Charmat / metodo mariotti, bottle fermented metodo ancestrale / familiare / colfondo / a fondo, and, metodo classico are all *valid* – if different – forms of sparkling pleasure.  Someone please write that article.

So what did I do with Alice’s a fondo (a riff on colfondo)? I took it from the fridge, having put it there the night before. I began to pour slowly, bending the non-flute* glass to the bottle, being careful to keep the wine mostly upright.  As you all know, the wine that comes out at first is less torbido / cloudy, as you pour onwards, that changes.

As I drank, I realized that this bottle represented to me the best of that rare woman or man who’s both Madonna and Whore; innocent and miraculous, yet wild. (Attenzione! we’re not talking about a more mingled and polished dichotomy of the bourgeois-boheme). The wine’s savory and Winter’s Bone dry. Delicate, nuanced, edgy: celery salt, green apple, preserved lemons, grated ginger; and a flower you probably know better than I do. Grapefruit pith, talc, and all business in bocca, mi piace. As I fell more into the bottle, more grated ginger and sea salt (crudo! Come to me, my love!) With more air, a lovely spearmint note opened.

Le Vigne di Alice’s a fondo. As you say in italiano: non male.

Ernest.

*Never use flutes for sparkling wines; they restrict the naso from opening up for you.

Emidio Pepe’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

Here are some of my notes, combined with Mark’s, from Emidio Pepe’s 50th harvest celebration, which we attended this weekend at the winery in Northern Abruzzo. All my mistakes Mark already corrected; the remaining flourishes are mine. Thanks to the Pepe family for such a good time, and the chance to calmly taste so many of these back vintages. Grazie di cuore, a heartfelt thanks, to the man himself, Emidio Pepe, who had the vision to be a contadino speciale, when it wasn’t at all the cool thing to do way back then in 1964.

foto_pepe_sengo_vini_pepePepe’s Latin tag-line of in vino vita could also be a caveat to tasting notes for these wines, as the wines are all unique ‘human beings’ (essere viventi), as the all-female cast of Pepe successors often say. I would usually cringe at that catch-all phrase, but it works in the context of Pepe family and its wines.  First and foremost, the wines change dramatically in the glass. I found myself crossing out and re-writing quite a bit. These wines call for a little patience before being speared by the zealot pen.

The second point about these wine as ‘human beings’ comes through in how the Pepe family talks about and brings up these wines, through a very thoughtful, protracted, and humane élevage. The family lives, tastes, checks in on, drinks, and generally celebrates these wines together at their table and others: from vintage to vintage, vineyard to vineyard, cement tank to cement tank… from microscopic slides of the native yeasts, to the bottles being examined and topped off by mamma Rosa before being shipped. The details of raising a family of wines, extending back fifty years, didn’t happen by not minding the details.

Speaking of shipping, I’ve seen some fast and loose chat on the wine boards about off bottles. I don’t find it to be the case in the wines I’ve tasted in Italy these last seven years. In my experience (I am happy to be corrected here), these wines are not masked by any more than at most a spicy Brett. They are also not bacteria-ridden. Some need a moment or two to clean up in the glass or decanter before drinking. I know this probably doesn’t make scientific sense, but lots of the VA seemed to blow off (or maybe it got filled in). In short, you wouldn’t have kicked any of them out of bed for eating crackers.

I personally came to know the wines through the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, yet I gather Pepe is probably more famous for the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The family’s total production is about 70,000 bottles per year, of which about 30% is Trebbiano and 70% Montepulciano (‘d’ ’or ‘from’ Abruzzo nothing to do with Toscana).

You can drink the rosato Cerasuolo when you visit them. The 2013 with the local specialty of lamb skewers called arrosticini hit the spot on their patio this weekend.

foto_pepe_trebbiano_flight_600x450The Pepe Trebbiano reminds me a lot of tangerines and cider; those pop up in my notes quite a bit. Their acidity was never unnerving or crunchy; just delicious and integrated. Part of that fresh acidity comes from the Pergola training system that gives the grapes a little shade and succor during the Summer’s heat. Another factor of this integrated acidity comes from bottle age, and, possibly, from the fact that the wines go through a long malolactic fermentation in the bottle. Some brief notes:

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2010
It’s much more open than 6 months ago when I had it at the winery. The vintage had lots of sole / sun and rain. Great stuffing, some fruit (tangerine), and acidic structure. Svelte and one to watch.

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2009
Very precise and intricate in naso. Celery salt, tangerine, yogurt. Rain during the vendemmia (harvest); the structure of the wine is built on acidity instead of fruit. I really enjoyed it quite a bit.

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2006
In naso: complex, smoky, cement, dried orange rinds, apple cider. Opulent in bocca. Very different than the lean-mineral years of say the 2009 and 2002.

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2004
Sip-n-spitters could love the opulence of the 2006, while commenting that the 2004 was similar but less complex. They’d be wrong. A lightness and length on palette to make this wine grande. A shy wine worth hearing out, IMHO. Reticent but beguiling; vino da meditazione.

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2002
If I were thirsty, I’d try not to drink too quickly this classic annata brutta (bad year). Minerals, chalk, acid. 2002, 2004, and 1995 were my trinity during this flight. With air it really snaps into focus and even the oxidation goes away. They each gave a unique facet of Pepe’s Trebbiano: 2002 being a lean-mineral wine from a throw out year; 2004 being shy, suave, and light as air on the palette; and the 1995…

Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1995
Try to find some. Here’s a bit of white-wine math: 2014 – 1995 = 19 years. And soon: 2015 – 1995 = 20. Smokey and deep; a wise teenager. Right now I find it to be one of those nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita kinda wines. It reminds me of youth and age; life and death. A soulful match would be with the local dish called Le Virtù. It’s the ancient dish traditionally eaten May 1st to keep the seasons in rhythm, mixing together in a stew, among other ingredients, dried beans from the Winter with the fresh ones from the Spring.

foto_pepe_montepulciano_flight_sans_1964_600_450

I don’t think anyone still confuses Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a grape variety, with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Toscana. If you do, stop that. I often find that Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has notes of cured black olives and bay leaf. Bay leaf is a really distinct smell. I found it very clearly in Pepe’s 1964, 1979, and 2001. In bocca, I find Montepulciano similar to Sangiovese with its levels of fruit, tannins, and acidity. Montepulciano’s tannins seems less structured, say more chalky, than Sangiovese’s; the fruit’s also a little more sunny. Both are reds that can be found in a fresh and juicy style, a rustic style, an over-barriqued-extracted style, and a very nobile but sanguino style.

We tasted two red flights: 5 older wines from 1964 to 1985, and then 5 wines from the range of 1990 to 2010. There was some delicious abruzzese food the Pepe’s cooked for us all from their home cucina as a pranzo-interludo between some of the wines.  Deep respect for mamma Rosa (for the food and more).

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1964
A real honor to drink this radiant gloria, and not only because it was Emidio’s first vintage. Perfectly integral; becoming even more precise and light-as-air as it opened up; high-toned and ethereal spice. That this wine’s greatness didn’t overshadow, with one exception, the other wines was the revelation for me.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1975
So, this was the exception. The nose just never cleaned up for me. I like brooding, but this just stayed cranky (balsamic), even as I continued to air-spank it. Maybe these wines are making me more humane, but I feel obligated to check in on this again.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1979
Delicate and precise nose: those long thin Japanese white mushrooms (Enokitake), chalk, dried raspberries, bay leaf. If there was a difference between smelling and drinking this wine I didn’t notice it. And, just as the nose to mouth was seamless, so was the spaghetti alla chitarra they served and sips of this wine. A couple points off if you’re feeling pointy for a bit of a short length.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1983
One of Emidio’s favorite vintage nowadays. This was a cranky wine when first vinified. It took a good ten years of waiting for it to start to come around.  That makes this wine taste better for me: the foresight and perseverance that a whole family had when they had a cranky one in the cellar. A wine of fruit and sole (sun). Here’s one for the late bloomers out there. A pretty wine. Lots of ♥ here.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1985
Balanced, earthy, sultry, smokey. Dried bitter cherries and cured black olives. I switched between this and the 1983 while eating the local lasagna-like dish Timballo.

Next flight; here are my condensed notes:

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1990
Sprightly acidity, salty, serious, seriously drinkable. Mint and sour fruits.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1993
Dynamic interplay of sweet and bitter elements. As soon as you think it’s too serious, you find a dark-chocolate smile. Not a subtle wine but gratifying nonetheless.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1998
This one hugs you. Dark chocolate, graham cracker, cherries. Never lush, but more sole than sangue.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2001
Back to spice. Sauvage. Guarded, slightly vegetal – absolutely stunning. I will be laying this down for my 7 year old son for when he’s old enough to drink together with me and for when he’ll have to drink it without me.

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010
Athletic, dark and young-blooded, very primal fruit and floral notes. Emidio Pepe talks about the Montepulciano grape skin being vellutato, silky; that holds here for this wine’s texture. Lots of sole-fruit stuffing.

Pepe’s one of only a few producers in Italy that has such a storia of back vintages bottled and waiting to be explored. He’s also, now with the family, one of only a few producers with a vision that beats the drum of natural wines and fine wines. I know of few other Italian producers that brings together better those two values in the current wine world milieu.

Emidio Pepe, as always impeccably dressed with his suite and wool Coppola cap, came on stage for a bit during the tasting. Emidio’s not the chatty type. Here’s a back and forth between Emidio Pepe and Sandro Sangiorgi, who guided the tasting and recently wrote a book about him.

foto_pepe_1964Emidio Pepe:             ‘Andare in giro per il mondo forma l’uomo.’
Sandrio Sangiorgi:    ‘Ti ha imparato qualcosa?’
Emidio Pepe:             ‘No.’

Emidio Pepe:            ‘Traveling around the world shapes a man.’
Sandrio Sangiorgi:   ‘Did you learn something?’
Emidio Pepe:            ‘No.’

We’re really proud to be very small part of having Pepe’s bottles, with their history, story, and adventures traveling to tables in the U.S.

Ernest
San Casciano in Val di Pesa
November 2014.

 

Thanksgiving Then and Now with Guccione ‘P’ 2012 [Perricone]

A great retailer in NJ asked me to write how I found Guccione. Here’s the scoop with a Thanksgiving leitmotif.

Francesco Guccione is somewhat of a Phoenix Rising these days. He’s a small producer in northwest Sicily, about 30 minutes outside of the crumbling and exceedingly romantic city of Palermo. I heard of his wines years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner in Emilia-Romagna, of all places. Let me explain: foto_guccione_indicazioniSeven year years ago, I was living in Firenze and I had a good friend called Fred, an American who had been living in Italy for over a decade. Besides my friend and fellow wine-lover, he was the English-Proficiency-Test-Administrator for Italian air traffic controllers. His latest place to call home was a small town in Emilia-Romagna, called Forlì. One day work calls, informing him he needs to go to Palermo for the week to perform an impromptu English test. Trying to make the best of his time while there, he looks up Palermo’s most famous wine shop, or, enoteca. This particular enoteca was known to have gems from all over. Maybe they’ll have that elusive Sicilian wine he had been searching for for the last few months. The gal who helped him was the head buyer; her name was Vera. She had the wine; it was one of her favorites as well. She got it for him and he came back the next day to ask for a good place to something together that evening. The relationship bloomed. A few months later, my friend is commuting to Palermo on weekends, going to the aristocratic Massimo Theatre for lyrical opera, and drinking lots of Champagne. One morning we meet and I see him sporting one of those woolen golf bonnets that the old Sicilian guys peer under from, while alternately checking calcio (soccer) stats in La Gazzetta dello Sport. It was time to meet this ragazza siciliana.  And,I wouldn’t miss the occasion to pick her brain for some cool and unknown Sicilian wines. So, it was decided we’d all meet up at Fred’s house for 2008 Thanksgiving in Emilia-Romagna. There were cheap commuter flights from Palermo (save money for more expensive wine!), and Firenze was just a two hour drive through the Apennines for me. We were going to give grazie, carve some turkey, and drink some Sicilian wines. The roasted Turkey aromas were starting to make our mouths water. I asked Fred what we were drinking. He winked while basting the turkey, “la siciliana Vera took care of it.” She had the wines shipped to him a few days before from Palermo. Sicilians are known for their hospitality and Vera was no different. (In fact, they say in Sicily you should come to the door knocking with your feet, since your hands will be filled with gifts.) Vera proceeded to pour for us one great wine after another: Loire crémant, grower-Champagne, and aged Burgundy. I wasn’t complaining, but I was a bit flummoxed as to why this proud ragazza siciliana, who pronounced she would “live and die” only in Sicily, would not show some love for Sicilian wines. She pursed her lips, raised her eyebrows, and informed us that she would like tobut that they were mostly badly vinified, too fruity, too obvious, and, generally — fanno schifo, disgusting. She reluctantly, after much prodding, intoned pleases, and a ricotta cheese cake with imported Graham cracker crust, offered one name. It was that same wine Fred was searching for: Guccione. foto_guccione_persona_600w I got a plane for Sicilia that next week to meet with Francesco Guccione and his old vines. His wines were off the charts when he and his brother started in 2007; we started importing him immediately.  Sadly, the Guccione story took a turn for the worse in 2010. His brother, Manfredi, legally and literally locked him out of the cantina, leaving him only as owner of the vineyards. Unfortunately, they never resolved their differences and Francesco’s brother died in the meantime. Two vintages pass before Francesco managed to put together an ad hoc vineyard at his grandmother’s abandoned country house. His new vintage of 2012 Perricone marks many beginnings (and ends).

foto_guccione_tavolaIt’s a wine of rare breed, a wine the old-school aristocratic Palmerian theatre-goers would be happy to drink, as well as Parisian hipsters. And, I hope, all our wine-lover friends in between in the States. Guccione has only six hectares, the farming is rigorously natural; native yeast fermentation in 3000-liter tini (large, upright wooden casks). Perricone is one of those grape varieties you have to pick just in time (like Moscato). Wait just a little bit too much and the wine becomes fruity, a bit flabby, and at best a one-note wonder. Guccione’s Perricone has a spicy nose (think anise), the tannins are fine and elegant, giving structure and depth without being imposing. Pair it with relatively simple dishes: grilled flank steak or tuna with an olive and caper tapenade; grilled anchovies with oranges; sardines with pine nuts works really well. I imagine bluefish could be excellent. Caponata is a traditional Palermian dish (but easy on the vinegar). Spaghetti al pomodoro on a Wednesday night. And, you knew it was coming, Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. The 2012 is just coming into its own now, but it will age. I had my last bottle of 2008 Guccione ‘P’ Perricone recently that was drinking like – Vera would be proud – an aged Burgundy years ago from that Thanksgiving in Emilia-Romagna. Producer info: http://portovinoitaliano.com/producers/guccione/ Wine info: http://portovinoitaliano.com/wines/guccione-sicilia-p/

Rooting for Paltrinieri’s Radice: Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘rifermentato’ in bottiglia…

We’re updating the ‘Radice’ page on our site today and I had to get this corniness out of my system. ‘Radice’ is such a spot-on name for this wine. Many of you know Paltrinieri is famous in Italia for its charmat lungo of ‘Leclisse.’ And while I like that stylish wine, I’ve always tried to give succor to the forgotten soul that is ‘Radice.’

It seems even in stylish Italia, tastes may be changing. As I’ve ranted about before, the Italians, for the most part, like stylish, slightly modern wines. They’re not into rustic or old-school wines (that said, there is a small group of conoscenti that know or or I would have to move back to the States pronto).

 

Alice: Che erba bella! / What good-looking grass!

Ciao a tutti:foto_alice_eraba_a_mano_600x600

Grazie to many of you for taking the time to check out the small producers working well in Proseccoland. Besides making stunning bubbles, Alice uses no chemical in vigna and no additives besides a minimum amount of sulphur dioxide in cantina. I’ll post later about the cantina practices.

Often, if a vineyard looks like a green carpet for your bare feet, you know you’ve got one that has healthy soil free of chemicals. During fioritura*, they use a  shoulder mounted weedwacker; outside of that period, it’s all by hand. Haunch by haunch, the practical and romantic.

fioritura = flowering
decespugliatore spalleggiato =
shouder mounted weedwacker

Vallarom’s 2014 vintage: profumi freschi…11.5% marzemino… 40% less…

We gave Filippo from Vallarom un colpo di telefono today. The white grapes (Pinot Bianco, Moscato Giallo, Chardonnay, etc)  are almost all picked. He’ll most likely wait another week for the reds to mature a bit more. He said the cellar has wonderful profumi freschi this year. With this year’s wacky temperatures of alternating cold and hot, the profumi are very defined and pronounced. Good news.foto_vallarom_2014rose_600x450

Bad news is that he lost 40% of the grapes. In Trentino, locals say they haven’t seen a vintage like this since phylloxera, others concede that the 1960s had a year or two like this (’64 was one).

To end on a good note, we’re waiting with baited breath to try the 2014 Marzemino. It usually rings in around 13%; this year it will be a zingy 11.0% – 11.5%. And with acid levels off the charts, this might be the year for us to start bringing in some of that delicious Pinot Nero metodo classico rosato. Stay tuned.

 

 

A Vroom! Rosato from Vigneti Massa: ‘Terra: Sic Est’

foto_massa_sic_est_641x478

You won’t find much rosato from the Colli Tortonesi; so it is, but here’s one: Terra: Sic Est.*  It’s a wine from the terra there and from, as Walter likes to personify them, two of his five sons: Freisa and Barbera. The Freisa gives it a kick of grit and a bitter end note; Barbera, as always, brings its fresh fruit to the party. The varieties are vinified together in steel; native yeasts. So, that’s how it is, that’s the deal, what you see is what you get:  è così!

Walter likes motorcycles, and the ‘Sic’ part of the wine name is a nod and homage to the great professional motorcycle racer Marco Simoncelli, loved and known to all Italians simply as Sic (the ‘C’ pronounced like ‘Ch’ in Chess).  Sic died way too young in an motorcycle accident in 2011.

* ‘Sic Est’ from the Latin could be translated into Italian as ‘È così,’ which could mean a version of ‘That’s how it is,’ or ‘that’s how it goes,’ or ‘What you see is what you get.’

foto_terra_sic_est

 

 

 

PV: Viaggio Alpino: Soil Difesa Complete

114 Vini:
See below (preferably away from your partner if you were on the trip).

6 Regions:
Toscana -> Veneto -> Trentino -> Alto Piemonte in Val d’Ossola -> Valle d’Aosta -> Piemonte -> Emilia-Romagna -> Toscana.

4 New Italian Words:
Bene.
To be used when you see that a decisive yet illusive ‘Yes’ needs to be given.

Ciao Pinot Grigio!
This is an extended, more jocular version of the well known and used Ciao! It is also a constant reminder of what we would like to say to Pinot Grigio.

Allora…
A group of people is following you and you don’t have any idea of where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing next. It’s a time delayer; especially if said with extended vowel pronunciation.

Grande ; )
Used to exult someone who is truly great, above the rest of us mortals, or, used conversely,  of someone who thinks they are grande. One can be grande in either sense for a lifetime or in moments.

Terme / Baths:
Pré-Saint Didier (under Mont Blanc in Aosta); Aqui Terme in Piemonte.

2 Vineyards with 100+ Year-Old Vines:
Foglia Frastagliata and Prünent.

1/2 Raw Pig:
Transformed into salame, sausage, and lardo.

Many dinners, lots of laughs, some patch medicine, and many an Autogrill caffè. And, we didn’t get kicked out of any cantine (well, almost Lino Maga again if we didn’t drink the slightly corked wine).

We dropped off the last person at the Firenze airport and headed for a small trattoria near our San Casciano studio to get a quick pranzo before getting back to the grind.

It was there that we spotted the only thing missing from the trip: A special Italian hydraulic police force, with the special charge of difesa del suolo (literally, defending the soil). We may keep their number handy for our next trip if we need an emergency purging, while pushing on in our Defending of Italy’s Soil.

foto_difesa_381x82

Grazie a tutti e un’abbraccio,
Mark & Ernest.


Veneto

Alice (Carpesica, Vittorio Veneto)
Cinzia Canzian and Pier Francesca Bonicelli

Alice Prosecco Extra Dry ‘Damàn’ 2012
Alice Spumante Tajad NV [2012]
Alice Prosecco Brut ‘Doro’ 2012
Alice Prosecco Extra Dry 2012 [clear bottle]
Alice Prosecco ‘.G’ 2010 [metodo classico]
Alice Prosecco ‘P.S.’ 2010 [metodo integrale]
Alice Spumante Rosé ‘Osé’ NV [2012]
Alice Blanc de Noir ‘Angelo’ 2010

Trentino

Vallarom (Avio)
Filippo & Barbara Scienza

Tank:
Vallarom Marzemino 2013
Vallarom Foglia Frastagliata 2013 [a.k.a. Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata or Enantio)
Bottle:
Vallarom Metodo Familiare ‘Vadum Caesaris’ 2012
Vallarom Pinot Nero 2010
Vallarom Foglia Frastagliata 2011
Vallarom Bianco ‘Vadum Caesaris’ 2012
Vallarom Bianco ‘Vadum Caesaris’ 2011
Vallarom Pinot Nero 2006
Vallarom Campi Sanni 2009 [Bordeaux blend]
Vallarom Brut Vo’ Dosaggio Zero 2010

Alto Piemonte

Cantine Garrone (Oira & Crevoladossola, Val d’Ossola)
Mario & Roberto Garrone

Bottle:
Cantine Garrone Piemonte Grignolino 2012
Cantine Garrone Munaloss 2012
Cantine Garrone Cà d’Maté 2011
Cantine Garrone Prünent 2011
Tank:
Cantine Garrone Cà d’Maté 2012
Cantine Garrone Prünent 2012
Lunch at Divin Porcello (Massimo Sartoretti):
Cantine Garrone Prünent 2002
Franchino Mauro Gattinara 1996
Domenico Clerico Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Capisme-e’ 2011

Valle d’Aosta

Caves Cooperatives de Donnas
Walter Bondon

Donnas Valle d’Aosta ‘Classico’ 1997
Donnas Valle d’Aosta ‘Classico’ 2003
Donnas Valle d’Aosta ‘Classico’ 2006
Donnas Valle d’Aosta ‘Classico’ 2009

Feudo di San Maurizio (Sarre)
Michel Vallet

Feudo di San Maurizio Spumante Brut Müller Thurgau ‘Thora’ 2013
Feudo di San Maurizio Müller Thurgau 2013
Feudo di San Maurizio Petite Arvine 2013 [from tank]
Feudo di San Maurizio Chardonnay 2013
Feudo di San Maurizio Gewürztraminer 2013
Feudo di San Maurizio Mayolet 2012
Feudo di San Maurizio Cornalin 2012
Feudo di San Maurizio Torrette 2012
Feudo di San Maurizio Torrette Superiore 2012
Feudo di San Maurizio Fumin 2012
Feudo di San Maurizio Vuillermin 2011
Feudo di San Maurizio Saro Djablo 2011
Feudo di San Maurizio Pierrots 2011

Piemonte (Roero & Colli Tortonesi)

Cascina Fornace (Santo Stefano Roero)
Enrico & Manuele Cauda

Tank:
Cascina Fornace Roero Arneis 2013
Cascina Fornace Roero 2013
Cascina Fornace Roero 2012
Bottle:
Cascina Fornace Roero 2011
Cascina Fornace Roero Arneis 2012
Cascina Fornace Roero Arneis 2011

Cascina Val del Prete (Priocca, Roero)
Mario Roagna

Cascina Val del Prete Roero Arneis ‘Luèt’ 2013
Cascina Val del Prete Roero Arneis ‘Bizarro’ 2011
Cascina Val del Prete Barbera d’Alba ‘Serra de’ Gatti’ 2013 [from tank]
Cascina Val del Prete Barbera d’Alba ‘Carolina’ 2011
Cascina Val del Prete Nebbiolo d’Alba ‘Vigna di Lino’ 2010
Cascina Val del Prete Roero ‘Bricco Medica’ 2011
Cascina Val del Prete Roero ‘Bricco Medica’ 2011 [from tank]
Cascina Val del Prete Roero 2009

Vigneti Massa (Monleale Alto, Colli Tortonesi)
Walter Massa

Tank:
Vigneti Massa Rosato 2013
Vigneti Massa Barbera ‘Sentiera’ 2013
Bottle:
Vigneti Massa Timorasso ‘Derthona’ 2011
Vigneti Massa Timorasso ‘Derthona’ 2005
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Montecitorio’ 2010
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Sterpi’ 2010
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Coast del Vento’ 2010
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Sterpi’ 2009
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Coast del Vento’ 2007
Vigneti Massa Timorasso cru ‘Coast del Vento’ 2000
Vigneti Massa Timorasso ‘Derthona’ 2003
Vigneti Massa Barbera ‘Monleale’ 2000
Vigneti Massa Barbera ‘Monleale’ 1990
Vigneti Massa Barbera ‘Monleale’ 1978
Vigneti Massa Croatina ‘Pertichetta’ 2005
Vigneti Massa Croatina ‘Pertichetta’ 1999
Vigneti Massa Croatina ‘Pertichetta’ 1990
Vigneti Massa Barbera cru ‘Bigolla’ 2001
Vigneti Massa Barbera cru ‘Bigolla’ 1996
Vigneti Massa Barbera cru ‘Bigolla’ 1988
Vigneti Massa ‘Cerretta’ 2002 [blend]
Vigneti Massa ‘Cerretta’ 2000 [blend]

Lombardia

Lino Maga – Barbacarlo (Broni, Oltrepò Pavese)

Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2010
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2009
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2011
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2012
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 1986
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 1983
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2002
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2007
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 2005
Lino Maga ‘Montebuono’ 2010
Lino Maga ‘Barbacarlo’ 1996

Piemonte (Monferrato)

Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa (Nizza Monferrato)
Martina Barosio & Piera Zola

Cantina:
Scarpa ‘Rosso Scarpa’ 2010
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti ‘Casa Scarpa’ 2010
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti ‘La Bogliona’ 1998
Scarpa Nebbiolo d’Alba ‘Bric du Nota’ 2008
Scarpa Barbaresco ‘Tettineive’ 2005
Scarpa Dolcetto d’Acqui ‘La Selva di Moirano’ 1998
Scarpa Monferrato Rosso ‘Rouchet Briccorosa’ 1999 [blind]
Scarpa Nebbiolo d’Alba ‘Bric du Nota’ 1997 [blind]
Dinner:
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti ‘I Bricchi’ 2007
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti ‘La Bogliona’ 1996
Scarpa Monferrato Freisa Secco ‘La Selva di Moirano’ 1999
Scarpa Barbaresco ‘Podere Barberis’ 1974 [x2]
Scarpa Barolo ‘Tettimorra’ 1987
Scarpa Brachetto Secco ‘La Selva di Moirano’ 2007

Emilia-Romagna

Paltrinieri (Sorbara)
Alberto Paltrinieri & Gianluca Diodi

Paltrinieri Bianco dell’Emilia 2013
Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Radice’ 2012 [metodo ancestrale; tappo spago]
Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Leclisse’ 2012 [metodo charmat lungo]
Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara ‘Grosso’ 2013 [metodo classico]
Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Modena ‘Greto’ 2012 [metodo charmat; Salamino]

Venturini Baldini (Quattro Castella, Reggio Emilia)
Denny Bini

Venturiuni Baldini Malvasia dell’Emilia NV [2013]
Venturiuni Baldini Lambrusco dell’Emilia NV [2013]


Scarpamania! 1999 Barbaresco ‘Tettineive’

We all can’t keep our mitts off the 1999 Scarpa Barbaresco. It’s drinking like a dream right now; those once imposing tannins have lost their edge, but all that structure remains. Even a curmudgeon would open his or her heart to this wine now.

The weather in Piemonte has finally gotten chilly; you can’t quite smell the snow in the air, but you can imagine in a month all the tetti of Neive covered with neve….

Ernest.

 

Fornace: New Roero Producer

As you all know, Mark has a soft place in his heart for all things, people and places Roerian. We found this producer recently, and Mark and I just looked at each other in silence after tasting his wines (always a very bad or very good sign). Sandy hills and old vines, here we come!

The producer’s’ name is Enrico Cauda; he’s a young guy from the high altitudes of Santo Stefano Roero and he’s got quite the light touch for these old vines. Look at those steep Roero cone-hills peaking. Amid old vines and mist, Enrico is making one delicious and complex Roerian elixir:

Here’s a write up from our catalog-cum-price list:

We drink lots of Roero wines, and we’re friends with quite a few producers there. But we’ve yet to taste wines more lithe and pure, with more of that famed Roero profumato nose, than those of Enrico Cauda. His family has farmed for generations and used to sell wine in damigiana. Skip forward to 2011, and Enrico decides to start bottling wine under his own label, naming it after the oldfornace, or brick kiln, on the property. Farming is strictly organic, with certification in process. The family now meticulously farms three hectares of old-vine Arneis and Nebbiolo (50-60 years old) near the village of Santo Stefano Roero. Santo Stefano is about five kilometers west of and a little higher in altitude than Canale (the main wine town of the Roero, around which are clustered many vineyards and the majority of the quality producers). Soils are classic Roero, with a high percentage of sand. Native yeast fermentations, and aging entirely in steel (including the Nebbiolo). 1250 case total production.

Le Vigne di Alice Wins Espresso’s Prosecco dell’Anno

The much (more than Rambero Rosso) respected 2013 guide of L’Espresso gave Alice PROSECCO DELL’ANNO for the .G, and a STELLA ROSSA to the winery for overall elevated quality. The Brut ‘Doro’ took away TOP CHARMAT PROSECCO of the guide and the P.S. Integrale got one of those smiley faces. I’ve used all my caps for the year.

It’s encouraging to see a guide book re-dicover an area like Prosecco; a tough category, one that’s a bit over-discovered, with not many small producers. In fact, Cinzia was just saying the other day to me that some people give her the (backhanded?) compliment that they don’t generally like Prosecco — but had immensely enjoyed a glass of Alice. While still trying to showcase vineyard and territory, she likes that kind of compliment. She also has enough courage not to bank on Extra Dry and offer a glass of Brut ‘Doro’ to passagiare with your meal.

Rambero Rosso vs L’Espresso: many years ago Rambero Rosso had a lot of producers I didn’t know. I ‘discovered’ producers and also discovered that I like the two glass / due bicchieri wines a whole hell of a lot better than the Look-At-Me wines garnering 3 bicchieri.

Nowadays, I don’t even buy the Rambero Rosso. Why? Many reasons but the primary is that they don’t search out new producers and areas. Nor do they re-discover producers that have changed their style or work habits or pulled ahead of the pack. Same producers, same wine, same glasses. Too much same old same old.

That’s exactly the reason I like some of the work of the Espresso. They are actually digging around for new producers and areas; and they say it how it is. For example, look at the coverage of Alta Langhe in Rambero Rosso compared to l’Espresso. Then, check out a Lazio producer that popped on the scene last year that they raved about and this year they were courageous enough to say he didn’t make the mark — by a long shot.

End of my publicity for L’Espresso, but this is just the beginning of saying how proud we are to be working with Le Vigne di Alice. Most producers bank on the Extra dry Prosecco, Alice fought against that and made a Brut called ‘Doro.’ Longer fermentation in Charmat (120 days instead of stand 30-45). Then, they challenged themselves to make a Prosecco from metodo classico called Punto G (in at least one reference to the G of DOCG ). Last year, they made a metodo classico with native yeasts , no sulphites called P.S. Integrale.

Walter Massa Poisons Freisa in Damigiana

Massa_Lavvelenata_Freisa_F-600x450“Fucking contadini,” Walter once yelled at me “don’t care about great bottles of wine and even less for their territorio.” He also told me, “I don’t want to do anything unless I’m having fun.” Walter evidently is not the usual overall-wearing contadino but a vignaiolo. He is also, evidently, a collector of glass damigiane, which could be described as 54-liter super-sized Chianti flasks (remember those?!). These bulbous straw-covered glass containers are usually used for temporary wine storage, but in 2009 he used 31 of them to age the local variety Freisa. He calls this wine L’Avvelenata / The Poisoned. Thankfully, the TTB didn’t ask for a translation when we submitted the label for approval.

There’s some sense to the name beyond superficial provocation. The wine’s name is the same as a song by 70‘s singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini where Guccini gives an autobiographical account of being L’Avvelenata. Though Guccini never explicitly says it, one gets the idea that he is ‘poisoned’ by the muse of singing and making poetry — not giving a shit about much else:

I sing when and how I can, and when I feel like it,
Without clapping or heckling…
Io canto quando posso, come posso, quando ne ho voglia

senza applausi o fischi…

Or, maybe Guccini seems to give an autobiographical account. He sings the canzone as if he were the ‘poisoned,’ or, inspired person. Yet, in a clever subject-object reversal, it’s Guccini himself who is ‘poisoning’ the canzone. (Grammatically, it is impossible for Guccini to be avvelenata. He would have to be avvelenato, with the past participle declining with the man Guccini). The canzone becomes avvelenata by Guccini: [La Canzone] Avvelenata. The Poisoned, a word referenced to a person and not an object, becomes an unapologetic and crafty way to put forth his decision and conviction to follow the often iffy career of a singer-songwriter. Likewise, [La Freisa] Avvelenata is a not a wine that poisons or inspires Walter, but a wine that was ‘poisoned’ or inspired by him — not as some egocentric winemaker, but as a vignaiolo unapologetically wanting “to have fun” with a “territorio” through a “great bottle of wine.”

Imagine a younger Walter Massa humming Guccini’s L’Avvelenata along the vine rows of his native Colli Tortonesi. The song becomes Walter’s inspiration even more if you perform a quick switch-a-roo of ‘dischi’ (records) for ‘vini’:

Who cares about the risks of them selling or not,
Don’t buy my records, spit on me.
Vendere o no non passa fra i miei rischi, non

comprare i miei dischi e sputami adosso.

Don’t let Walter or Guccini fool you with their off-the-cuff, come-what-will, I’m-dancing-with-muses-and-destiny way of presenting themselves. By naming his Freisa after this particular song, Walter is making a compelling statement about the producer as the artist and craftsman, working in his own medium of terroir (vineyard, variety, cellar, etc.). He, like Guccini below, is also implying that he feels the need to hone his own creative urges and whims without worrying too much about the public and critics; yet nonetheless, he pretty clearly wants you to “listen” to this wine he has made and, maybe even as Guccini says, “fuck all the rest”:

I have many things still to tell you about
for those that want to listen — fuck all the rest!
Ho tante cose ancora da raccontare per chi vuol

ascoltare e a culo tutto il resto!

Thus, the protracted deduction: Guccini poisons his song; the song poisons and inspires Walter; Walter poisons the wine. Throw yourself as a wine lover into the mix, and one gets quite the bottling of fecund inspiration!

Obviously, any possible lead-up to fecund inspiration needs a release valve. One needs to be distracted from this need to sing or create wine for oneself. I can see Walter with a mischievous smile agreeing with Guccini here:

Do you think I care to take on the problems of being a star up there singing?
I more enjoy getting drunk or masturbating, or even fucking.
Secondo voi ma a me cosa mi frega di assumermi la bega di star quassù a cantare,

godo molto di più nell’ ubriacarmi oppure a masturbarmi o, al limite, a scopare…

But, don’t get tricked again by the nonchalance. Of course Guccini and Walter want to be stars, but not in the blockbuster sense. They want that intimacy of sharing an authentic passion they have created. I can vouch for Walter. Every time I bring someone to visit him, he gets passionate about the possibilities of the vintage and his instruments of the Colli Tortonesi and its varieties (Timorasso, Freisa, Croatina, Barbera). I’ve been to Walter’s a lot over the years, and every time we see each other he opens with, “What do you want to drink?” When we start to taste new vintages out of the tank, there’s the sense that he’s looking for his own vignaiolo authenticity appreciated and listened to. No doubt you’d get more of a smile from him by leaning your ear to the glass, and listening to the sound of the wine as it fills it, rather than some “I like, I don’t like,” conversation cutter. We’re all involved in projects and careers for many reasons, but when one has authenticity as a baseline, it comes across clearly, without compromise or apology to life’s realities or responsibilities. It’s not some mad genius behavior; it’s not even a choice, it’s a deep need to search and discover. There’s Walter again, I can hear him on his cell phone, tilling with the tractor and yelling out in Piedmontese accent that he doesn’t want any of that “gloria da stronzi” (ass-hole glory):

…do you think I would’ve written these songs for a couple of bucks,
For some kind of asshole-glory?
…credete che per questi quattro soldi, questa gloria da stronzi,
avrei scritto canzoni?

Drinking, cursing, not really caring to be a rock star even if you are a rock star, making song and drinking wine…that’s the spirit!

I like making songs and drinking wine, I like making a mess.
Mi piace far canzioni e bere vino, mi piace far casino.

All play and no work? Probably not. But, you know, many never even begin on the road to making something authentic. And, for sure, it doesn’t come from quattro soldi (a little money) or gloria da stronzi. I think it’s worth repeating the verse above, and adding the first line of the song, which Walter quotes on the label:

But if I would have foreseen all this, considered all the reasons and excuses, the still relevant conclusions,
Do you think I would’ve written these songs for a couple of bucks, for some kind of asshole-glory?
Ma s’ io avessi previsto tutto questo, dati causa e pretesto, le attuali conclusioni
credete che per questi quattro soldi, questa gloria da stronzi, avrei scritto canzoni?

The wine:

2010 Vigneti Massa ‘L’Avvelenata’ [Freisa 100%]

The wine was fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts and then racked into 31 glass damigiane (54 liter / 14+ gallon large glass jugs), which Walter left outside for over a year. Glass isn’t a great insulator, so the wine went through extreme temperature differences. The variety Freisa is vinified in many ways (sparkling or still, sweet or dry). Massa’s 2010 ‘L’Avvelenata’ Freisa, like his ‘Pertichetta’ Croatina, is vinified still and dry, with structure and lots of complexity. It shows the spicy, elegant and complex side of Freisa. It will be interesting to see if it ages; it’s gorgeous now.

Rare Oval Mushrooms: Ovuli (Amanita Caesarea)

I meet with my Tuscan fungaiolo and tartufaio friend Andrea this morning. I’ve been searching for freshly picked Ovuli mushrooms for months; they are now in season and scarce, mostly because lack of rain. At first blush when young, they look like eggs (uovo), hence the vulgar name. Local funghaioli call them the best of the best, creme della creme, or,  imperiali / imperial, after Julius Caesar (Caesarea).

We found some Porcini too. But, the Ovuli… Back tomorrow. If I wake up early enough, there may be black truffles. I am sure to get on my soapbox and have a diatribe against truffle oil.

We cooked the Porcini with shallots, parsley, and olio d’oliva extra vergine. The Ovuli we salt grilled on a slab of Himalayan salt.

2011 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Verduno Peleverga DOC; delicate and restrained as the Ovuli.

Cement will be Wet with Roerian Nebbiolo

Sometimes dreams do come true, and, about a month ago, Mike Foulk and I were tasting with Mario Roagna from Val del Prete his bevy of goods. Mario is a biodynamic farmer with more wild flowers between the vines than flies on horse shit. The horse shit is from the winery’s horse named Barrique; it  serves as fertilizer in the vineyard. Horse’s name is important later.

More than bio-super, he a very good taster and most excellent, most thoughtful buongustaio. One of those rarer and rarer creatures nowadays that actually likes to have a conversation where each side listens and responds to what the other person said.

We (and it seems you too!) dig his Arneis and Barbera in steel. Fresh pure wholesome fruit with just the right structure from acidity and tannins. The native yeasts on the Arneis give such a complex nose of dried flowers and, as Micali astutely noted, a vermouth-like cut. Yet, when we got to the Nebbiolo wines, our excitement dimmed as some oak obscured that freshness and complexity we so loved with the other wines (although none of the wines was crazily over-oaked).

I told Mario this. He then proceeded to grumble and think at the same time. He then responded with a question as we started to head for the car: Would we like to drink a magnum of ’83 that was fermented in cement? Shut the car door and line up them glasses. His wife scurried to a hidden cantina down the road and brought the goods. Lots of folks get excited about old wine, because it’s old. Lots of old wines are a throw of the dice, but once in a while you hit the time machine under the usher of Michael J. Fox. Or, as my friend and Roero-guru Mark reminded me recently of something Terry Theise recently wrote:

“Old wine offers us flavors we cannot taste any other way, in any other form, and in that sense it extends the very essence of what we can know about flavor itself. Also, old wine is uniquely evocative and atmospheric and fascinating; it’s like music in that respect. It makes you feel most deeply and fundamentally human. It can also show you otherwise elusive things about the nature of time.”

How was the ’83 Nebbiolo in cement? Pure, etches of time with nothing muted and that class icily more ‘profumato’ nose of Roero Nebbiolo. Mario is fermenting his 2012 in cement. I hope you be there to try it with us in 2041.