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ITALY: Northern Italia

There is an incredible array of wines made in the Northern part of Italy.   Let's define this region narrowly, including the Val d'Aosta, Liguria, Piemonte (we've got a whole separate page for this area), Lombardia, the Veneto, Alto Adige, Trentino and Friuli.

Northern Italy and Major Wine Types

AOSTA Rarely seen in the U.S. as the wines are relatively "minor" in the context of international quality.  If you visit this mountainous area neighboring France, you'll find grapes such as Prie Blanc,  Nebbiolo, Barbera, Gamay, Petit Rouge, Petit Arvine, Moscato, Malvasia, Blanc de Valdigne, Vien de Nus, Syrah, Grenache, Müller-Thurgau, Fumin and perhaps some Dolcetto.
LIGURIA This small coastal area along the Italian Riviera has Genoa as its main city.  Famous for basil (friends swear the basil for their pesto is best grown on some little hill outside Genoa!), the region has relatively modest quality wines. Cinqueterre is a famous white wine, but what we've seen in our market has been rather average in quality.  Two white grapes are of interest, Pigato and Vermentino, while in red there's a Dolcetto-like wine made from what's called "Rossese di Dolceacqua". 
LOMBARDIA Only recently gaining some fame, thanks to a couple of high-profile winemakers, this region between Piemonte and the Veneto has a curious assortment of wines and grape varieties.  Wines of note include:  Buttafuoco, Franciacorta, Grumello, Inferno, Lugana, Oltrepo Pavese, Sassella, Sfursat, Valcalepio and Valtellina.   Grapes here include Pinot Nero, Chardonnay, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Trebbiano (of various clones), Bonarda, Sangiovese, Marzemino, Schiava Gentile, Rondinella, Merlot, Pinot Bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Croatina, Tocai, Pinot Grigio, Brugnola and something called Uva Rara.
TRENTINO This region, north of Verona and south of the Alto-Adige (Sudtirol), produces a wide variety of varietal wines.  Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero, Moscato, Riesling, Nosiola, Pinot Grigio, Riesling Italico, Riesling Renano, Lagrein, Marzemino, Merlot, Teroldego, Müller-Thurgau and Traminer are typical varieties. 
ALTO ADIGE -
SUDTIROL
All the villages here have names in German and Italian and many of the wineries offer their wines with both German and Italian names on the labels.     The locals grow up speaking German as their first language and speak of Italians as though they're foreigners!  There is an incredible assortment of wines here.  The Italian names are listed below, with the German name noted parenthetically.
Moscato Giallo (Goldenmuskateller), Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder), Pinot Grigio (Rülander), Riesling Italico (Welschriesling), Muller-Thurgau,  Riesling Renano (Rheinriesling), Sauvignon, Sylvaner, Traminer Aromatico (Gewürztraminer), Malvasia, Merlot, Cabernet, Lagrein (the rosé being called Rosato, while the "dark" or red is called Scuro in Italian, Dunkel in German), Pinot Nero (Blauburgunder) Schiava (Vernatsch), Moscato Rosa and Tschaggeler. 
VENETO This large region touches a piece of Austria at the north, with land just west of Verona all the way east to Venice.  The most famous wines include Soave (made of Garganega and Trebbiano), Valpolicella (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara   as its principal varieties), Bardolino (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, principally), Prosecco and Bianco di Custoza.  There are other denominazione such as Breganze, Colli Berici, Colli Euganei, Lessini Durello, Lison-Pramaggiore and Piave.   Producers of Valpolicella pride themselves on Amarone and Recioto wines, both made from dried grapes, the former tending to be powerfully dry, while the latter tending   to be strong and in varying degrees of sweetness.  Soave producers also, often, make a dessert wine of dried grapes called Recioto di Soave.  You can find many wines of the region as varietal wines, so there's a lot of Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Noir, etc. 
FRIULI In Italy's northeast corner, this region has about six sub-regions and wineries here tend to make a range of varietal wines.  Many produce curious proprietary blends.  Frankly, we don't look to this region for "good value" wines.  For example, Sauvignon Blanc wines here cost the importer about the same number of dollar that most California Sauvignons fetch at a retail or consumer level.
The DOC of "Colli Orientali del Friuli" is probably the most prestigious, while "Grave del Friuli" tends to produce less pricey wines.  In addition to the "standard" varieties such as Sauvignon (Blanc), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Riesling, a number of local varieties are noteworthy.  Refosco is a modest red, while Tocai Friulano is a typical white.  Now they can't call it "Tocai Friulano," so you'll see these wines labeled simply as "Friulano."  Schioppettino tends to be a spicy, lightly peppery red.  Pignolo is a rare red wine of interesting quality.  A couple of white grapes make wonderful dessert wines:   Verduzzo (sometimes made into a bubbly or fizzy wine) and Picolit. 

Some Wines We Like:

 

POJER & SANDRI
pojer.gif (13656 bytes)This is a famous, highly-regarded winery located way up in the hills overlooking the Trentino region.

We first visited this estate in the early 1980s and they were nearly "cult" figures back then.  Today our European friends, all of whom are fans of this winery, reserve their purchases long before the wines are even bottled!  

The climate in this area is varied and the list of varieties made here is impressive.  For years Pojer & Sandri were thought of as bianchisti, or white wine producers.  But they even make impressive red wines.  So impressive, in fact, that they were invited a couple of years ago to come to Oregon's famous International Pinot Noir conference!  

The wines have been priced a bit higher than a few local importers have thought was wise.  As a result, it has been several years since Pojer & Sandri wines have really been available here.

A local fellow finally stepped up to the plate and has gotten in the batter's box...so we finally have a new and fresh vintage of a Pojer & Sandri white wine to offer.



MULLER-THURGAU
is a bit of a specialty and it's grown on a hill close to the winery.  Palai is the name of the specific site and the wine takes that name.
It's vinified in  stainless steel and does not see any wood.  It's a rather delicate, crisp dry white and, frankly, oak would do nothing for this wine aside from covering it.
You'll find nice lemon and lime notes on the nose with a faint herbal tone.  It's not a very "big" wine and we enjoy this as a cocktail white or paired with seafood.  It seems to work nicely in tandem with Asian-styled foods, white fish or mildly-season vegetable pastas.

The 2011 has just landed and we've sale-tagged it at $24.99.






A special proprietary white called Besler Bianck had been a favorite...but on our last visit to taste, we were surprised they were still offering what we felt was a rather aged version and, to our taste, it had not aged well...we liked this wine when it was young and fresh and the particular wood they used to mature it showed a curious spice note.  It was, in fact, aged in barrels made of acacia wood...this gives a particular fragrance and taste...very attractive in its youth.
 
 
It comes from the "Maso Besler" vineyard in the nearby Val di Cembra.   Besler refers to "sheep" and stems from a Latin word.  
It's a five grape blend featuring Pinot Bianco, Kerner, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Incrocio Manzoni.  Everything is harvested at the same time and the juice is then fermented in wood: French oak and barrels made of Acacia!    The wine spends a year in wood and they keep the spent yeast in contact with the wine, stirring it from time to time. 


While they're not making large quantities of sparkling wines, they do make an excellent bubbly which is extremely dry.  Like French Champagne, the wine is made of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The wine is a blend of two vintages, in this instance, it's 1995 and 1996 vintages.  The wine spends about two and a half years on the spent yeast before disgorgement.  No sweetening dosage is added, so the wine is too dry for most people.  
 
 

 
Rosso Faye is a very fine Cabernet-based red.  It's Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a local variety called Lagrein.  As a result of the addition of Lagrein, this doesn't taste like a Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet, yet it's delicious!  There are red fruits and black on the nose, along with a brown spice character from the French oak aging.  The 2006 is nice now, though young, and ought to cellar nicely for 5-15 more years.  Elisa Sandri mentioned serving this with a veal shank and polenta.  Lamb isn't a bad match for this, either.  
Rosso Faye seems to be a very highly-regarded wine in Italy, so it's nice that they actually send some bottles to California!  
 


They also make some top distilled products, grappa and various fruit brandies.  We currently have some 375ml bottles of their fine Traminer grappa.  This is surprising gentle (many taste like rocket fuel) and wonderfully aromatic.


CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME PHOTOS.  
Currently in stock: 2006 ROSSO FAYE (List $65)  SALE $54.99
BESLER BLANC  Sold out
1995-1996 EXTRA BRUT SPUMANTE $35.99
2011 MULLER THURGAU  $24.99 

Their grappa is currently sold out.



 

Pojer & Sandri from Mauro Fermariello on Vimeo.  It's in Italian, but even non-speakers might comprehend a fair bit of the presentation.


 

 

COLTERENZIO
colterenzio.gif (59478 bytes)I have known the wines from this co-op for many years, having done extensive tastings of the wines from the Alto Adige.  On a recent trip to the area my friend Stoffi scheduled Colterenzio as our final appointment.  Apparently he'd saved the best for last. 

wpe10.jpg (4770 bytes)The winery is run by Luis Raiffer, a serious wine man.  The place, located in the town of Cornaiano (or Girlan in German, if you prefer), was started in 1960.  Today they have more than 370 hectares and the production is large.  While many claim the Produttori del Barbaresco to be Italy's model of a cooperative winery, I would have to say, given the quality of the production here, Colterenzio deserves that title.
They make an astonishing range of wines.  The simple bottlings are clean-as-a-whistle.  



"Lafoa" are the "Bordeaux-styled" wines.  Sauvignon Blanc, expensive though it is, shows amazingly intense fruit.  It's a combination of Loire, New Zealand and Bordeaux.  Signor Raiffer explained they use a number of special clones of Sauvignon to achieve such a success.  This is not for the timid or faint of heart.  It's pedal-to-the-metal Sauvignon.



The 2013 Pinot Grigio is exceptional.  This is far better than simple plonk such as the well-marketed Santa Margherita brand and it's priced honestly.  We're amused when customers insist upon paying for all those full color ads in various publications, not to mention the monthly Mercedes Benz' payments for the importer of Santa Margherita.  They could have something better and far less costly.

Currently in stock:  
2006 "Cornell" Chardonnay $33.99
2006 "Lafoa" Sauvignon Blanc $35.99 
2013 PINOT GRIGIO  List $19   SPECIAL PRICING $12.99

 




FORADORI
You can't know the Trentino grape called Teroldego without knowing the wines of Elisabetta Foradori.
You can't.

Her wines are the reference point for this wonderful grape, a variety that's particular to the Campo Rotaliano, a small region north of Trento.  There's lots of limestone and granite to the soil here.  Ms. Foradori has worked diligently to plant and re-plant good "clones" of Teroldego, preferring vines which will produce quality fruit, often at the expense of quantity.  The region, actually, had been carpeted with Teroldego from more vigorously-producing clones, so Foradori took cuttings from her family's oldest vines (heirloom Teroldego, if you will) to propagate.  Elisabetta says they have about 17 clones of Teroldego presently.  
 
The Famous Principessa of Teroldego.


In the cellar...


It was a warm morning, so we tasted outside...a "Fuoradori" tasting.


Her basic Teroldego is labeled simply as "Foradori."  It carries the "Rotaliano" D.O.C.    It comes from various vineyard sites from her major holdings in the Rotaliano "region."   The average age of these vines is older than the winemaker, which is a good thing.   The fermentation takes place in stainless steel and the wine is matured in seasoned oak for about a year.  These are routinely delicious and a great alternative to wines such as Chianti Classico, Barbera, etc.  We currently have her 2009 vintage.

"Granato" is a wine that's also made entirely of Teroldego, but though it's the more "special" wine, it has the lesser denominazione of the I.G.T. of Vigneti delle Dolomiti Rosso.  The wine comes from various vineyard sites, all cultivated with more severe pruning in the winter to reduce the yields and maximize the intensity of Teroldego. As we are seeing with many vintners these days, the winemaker's preference is to ferment the juice in wood, rather than the more sterile stainless steel tank.  Ms. Foradori employs a high percentage of new oak barrels, crafting a wine of the same level of quality as a Super-Tuscan, Super Piemontese, Napa Cabernet or fairly prestigious Bordeaux wine. This sees about 50% new oak, the rest split between slightly older cooperage.   We currently have some bottles of the highly-acclaimed 2004, a wine with a wonderful dark fruit quality and sweet oak bouquet.   Lovely example!

A trio of other wines rounds out her portfolio.  A white wine called "Myrto" features Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco and Incrocio Manzoni.  There's a particular red blend featuring Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Petit Verdot and 10% of local, "Foradori" varieties.  And, finally, she's been bitten by the Syrah bug, creating a wine called Ailanpa of which she makes about three bottles every few years.  

Elisabetta has recently become enamored with terracotta amphora containers for her wines.  It's too early to really say whether or not these enhance or have an effect on the wines.


Currently in stock:  2009 Foradori Teroldego "Normale" (List $25)  SALE $21.99
2004 Granato $54.99

 


 

 

EDI KANTE


When we try to explain the Carso wine region, most people are befuddled.  They have enough trouble imagining precisely where Friuli is located until we say "an hour's train ride north of Venice."

Trieste is a town many people have heard of but few could point on a map with any confidence and peg its location.  The Carso region is north of Trieste along the sea (the Gulf of Trieste, actually) and it's a region with wines most Italians would consider to be "foreign."

One of the leading winemakers, if not THE leading vintner, is Edi Kante.  His wines are regarded as the benchmark of Carso winemaking.  And one of the curious varieties I'd tasted from some Friuli producers who are located close to or on the border with Slovenia is a wine called Vitovska.  

Kante's is a remarkable bottle of wine.  You can 'taste' or sense the chalky soils where the vines are planted.  Some tasters may find an element or influence of the sea, as you might find a note of salt air in the wine.  I found a definite minerality in the wine, with a touch of apple and pear notes.  The 2006 currently in the shop is a terrific wine to pair with seafood, especially sand dabs or rex sole.  Got oysters?  

We purchased a bottle of Kante's Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc.  The Sauvignon is nice, but not as compelling as the Vitovska.  

UPDATE:  The Malvasia was a perfectly standard bottle of minerally, stony white wine.  We did not find it floral or fruity, so we don't have it in the shop but can special order it for you.

Currently in stock:  2006 KANTE Carso VITOVSKA  $42.99 (last bottle or two)









TIEFENBRUNNER

Though they make a lovely range of wines at this family-run property in the Alto Adige, we see but a couple of offerings.  They have a cellar full of interesting wines, however.   

Well-vinified is their simple, honest, basic Pinot Grigio, a wine fermented in stainless steel and bottled when it's fresh and young. It used to be "Alto Adige" in denominazione, but a few years ago changed to delle Venezie. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  wpe11.jpg (4144 bytes)

We have visited this place a few times.  The wines are always of good quality, some we like more than others.  They are looking to improve wine quality here, something we always appreciate.  Wineries who rest on their laurels often get left behind as others strive to raise the bar, so to speak.

We were presented a sample of a red a few years ago.  My cohorts had more experience in tasting the wines of this region, so all were surprised when I was the only one to correctly identify the wine as a Lagrein.
In 2003 we stopped by and were shown another "Mystery Red."  I guessed it as an "Alto Adige Syrah," though I had no idea anybody was cultivating that grape in this region.  It turns out Tiefenbrunner has a few barrels of Syrah!

The winery is highly-regarded on its home turf for its Linticlarus Chardonnay and Cabernet wines.  They also make a famous Müller-Thurgau called "Feldmarschall Fenner zu Fennberg" which we see once in a while. 
Currently in stock:  2012 Pinot Grigio (list $16)  SALE $12.99

Photo (above, right) is of Christoff Tiefenbrunner in his weinkeller/cantina.


 

 

CANTINA TRAMIN/TERMENO
This is a 280 member grower's cooperative winery whose Gewürztraminer is amazingly fine!  The winery was started in 1898 and in 1971 it merged with another co-op.  Winemaker Willi Sturtz is at the helm.

Now the town of Termeno is called "Tramin" in German.  Some people claim this is the birthplace of Gewürztraminer.  Well, that may be the case and the case gets even stronger when you taste their "Nussbaumerhof" bottling of this aromatic variety.  I bought a bottle of it for a dinner event we were having, intending to serve it to someone who claims not to be a fan of Italian wines and who's addicted to Gewürztraminer.  
 


 

Winemaker Willi Sturtz
 




The Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer is extraordinary and holds its own with just about any dry Gewürz from France's Alsace region.  The vineyards are in clay and limestone, the exposure being south and south-west.  A portion of the grapes are picked somewhat late, when they're really ripe and intensely aromatic.  The juice is macerated with the grape skins to further intensify the spice notes.  What a wine!  Intense fragrances of lychees, grapefruits and rose petals waft from the glass.  The wine is quite dry, too, with but 7 or 8 grams of sugar per liter, typically.  This balances the slight bitter finish and balances the wine quite handsomely.
During the holiday season a woman visiting us from San Francisco asked about Gewurztraminer, wanting to see our selection of wines from Alsace.  She looked at me sideways when I proudly showed her a bottle of Nussbaumer.  
"How could an Italian Gewurztraminer possibly be any good?" she asked, looking at me sideways.  
She reluctantly bought a bottle and nearly a year passed before we heard from her again (San Francisco, you see, is so far away!).
There was a call saying "Hello, I came to your store last year and you suggested some Italian Gewurztraminer...by any chance, do you have more of that?"
And she ventured down to Burlingame and bought some more bottles to share with friends and family that holiday season!

We visited the winery in the summer of 2005 and winemaker Willi Sturtz opened a 5 year old bottle of the Nussbaumer...amazingly good and still very much alive.  The current vintage, from the 2009 harvest, is exceptionally intense and very fine.

The basic, entry level Pinot Grigio provides testimony to the high quality of wine being offered by this producer.  It is unusually intense and beautifully made.  And it arrives at a good price.
 
Currently in stock: 2011 NUSSBAUMERHOF GEWÜRZTRAMINER $41.99
2012 PINOT GRIGIO $14.99

 

 

 

 
SALVALAI
There are numerous producers in Italy's Veneto region that make serviceable wines at affordable prices.  Some are huge factories and I notice that many wine "professionals" often are "allergic" to wines from anything but "artisan" domaines.

But sometimes these sorts of large wineries can make good wines which fit a certain niche, such as "drinkable wines at easy-drinking prices."

And, so we've been customers of this Salvalai winery for a number of years.

They make a really good bang-for-the-buck Pinot Grigio.  The wine is surely made from high-yielding vineyards, yet they manage to produce a wine which offers typical Pinot Grigio aromas and flavors.  Further, the wine is not the sweet "plonky" stuff imported by various wine marketing specialists who seek to appeal to wine drinkers who want something a bit sweet.  Salvalai's wine is dry and it's a bargain at our $8.49 sale price.

I've visited the Salvalai folks a couple of times and they've been excited to show me a new "experimental" wine.  It's made of a grape not often found in the Veneto:  Pinot Noir.  Well, it might be possible to make good Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero) in the Veneto, but not the way the Salvalai winery is producing it.  Their version is merely "red wine" and, though Pinot Noir has a particular character to it, even in high-yield situations, they've managed to eliminate virtually all the varietal character in their wine.  

Better they stick to traditional Venetian varieties.

And so we have a rather good, attractively-priced Valpolicella Classico.  The "Classico" designation means the fruit for this wine comes from the historic, central Valpolicella area and the towns of Negrar, Marano, Fumane, Sant'Arnbrogio and San Pietro in Cariano.  It's 60% Corvina and 40% Rondinella.  It's a  simply-made wine.  No oak...they merely allow it to rest in stainless steel for a while to clarify and then it's bottled.  Unlike another very fruity, Beaujolais-like Valpolicella we have in the shop, this is a more conventionally-styled red wine.  It's medium-full bodied and dry.  Pairing it with a savory pasta is ideal, though this pairs nicely with red or white meat dishes.  We find this to be drinkable immediately and it should remain in good condition for a few years.

I found the ripasso and Amarone wines at Salvalai to also be of interest and they are well-priced.  We can special order those for you, if you like.

Currently in stock:  SALVALAI PINOT GRIGIO delle Venezie (LIst $12) SALE $8.99
SALVALAI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO $11.99

 

 

 

DAL FORNO

This is one of the storied estates in the Veneto making Valpolicella.  (The other is Quintarelli, as if you didn't know...)

A young Romano Dal Forno had met the legendary Giuseppe Quintarelli, as he was starting out in the wine world.  Dal Forno had a passion for the business, which Quintarelli noted, though the family vineyard holdings were located in the Val d'Illasi, a place Giuseppe felt was better suited to cultivating corn than grapes.

In those early days, Dal Forno's family had sold its grapes to the local grower's cooperative winery.  Romano and his wife Loretta were married in 1979 and the notion of wine was a bit of a fantasy...but they found they made a bit of money in selling wine and so this helped convince them that wine was a good idea.

Romano's grandfather had some vineyards as did Loretta's family...and so they embarked on a wine adventure and today Dal Forno's wines are a bit of a enological trophy.  They are expensive, indeed, but the family (their three sons are now involved in the family business) goes to extraordinary lengths to make wine.

They own around 12.5 hectares of vineyards and rent additional vineyards.  They farm, in total, around 27 or 28 hectares, including a modest quantity of an obscure variety called Oseleta.  This is a variety which has thick skins and very little juice.  As a result it was on the verge of extinction.   

Dal Forno bought cuttings of Oseleta and in 1988 started planting it in hopes of improving the quality of his Valpolicella.  Not a fan Molinara grapes, Dal Forno's wine is based upon Corvina and Corvinone which he says are not especially intense in color.  He likes Rondinella for its color and, as we understand it, the Corvina and Corvinone may extract a measure of color when fermented in concert with Oseleta.  Romano also is a fan of the Croatina grape.

His vineyards are densely planted and we have found his wines to have the intensity of Cabernet Sauvignon...very curious for Valpolicella.  But with his regimen of low yields and modern fermentation tanks, drying the fruit to further intensify the wine, perhaps it's possible to make the remarkable nectar offered under the Dal Forno label.
 
The tanks are equipped with special punch-down pistons to help extract color and character from the fruit.



And, of course, the cellar is computerized, allowing them to program each tank.
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They program the computer to routinely "punch down" the cap of the fermenting juice...something like every 90 minutes, which may contribute to the intense, deep color of their wines.

Of course, the tradition in making wine in this region is drying the grapes to intensify the character of the resulting wine.  Dal Forno has designed a special system to facilitate this process and they dry or dehydrate fruit not only for their Amarone, but for their "basic" Valpolicella, as well.

The underground cellar is a work of art.

Romano Dal Forno is a fan of American oak cooperage.  


As we walked through the cellar, Dal Forno, ever the perfectionist, would top off with wine each barrel from which we'd tasted...he'd then clean off the barrel and rinse the glass 'thief' as well as thoroughly cleaning the sink (more like a fountain, actually, as you can see behind wine aficionado Carlo Perini).




Domaine de la Romano Dal Forno.  It looks a bit like a Bordeaux wine cellar or something out of the Napa Valley.

 

Some tasters may fault the Dal Forno wines for being excessively oaky.  I've usually been reminded of the wines of Silver Oak or BV Private Reserve Cabernets of the early 1970s when tasting the young Valpolicella of this estate.  It's darker in color than wines of neighboring properties...perhaps the low yields, particular fermentation tanks, oak regime, etc., all allow the Dal Forno family to produce a wine more reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon than of Beaujolais.  

Romano points to the drying of the grapes as a contributing factor to the quality and character of their wines.  "This is a totally different dynamic than working with 'fresh' grapes."

He likes the American oak barrels (many being coopered in the Southwest of France in the Armagnac region).
"Oak for our wine is a bit like a good suit or a haircut for a gentleman.  It makes a good first impression for most people."  And, as with many wines, as the wine matures in the bottle, the oak tends to become less prominent and, eventually, the grape takes over and shows its qualities.

We currently have the 2003 Valpolicella in stock.  It's deep and dark in color and shows a fair bit of wood and dark fruit notes.  This is the "Silver Oak Cabernet of Valpolicella."  It's a very showy wine on its own (Romano often suggests consumers drink it by itself!) and it pairs handsomely with grilled steaks, lamb, prime rib or duck.

We can order the Amarone, if you like.  Be sure there's 'room' on your credit card.

Currently in stock:  2003 DAL FORNO VALPOLICELLA (list $200) SALE $169.99
Amarone by Special Order

 

 

MONTE SANTOCCIO

If you follow baseball, you know that it's rare for a kid to come out of high school or college and make it directly to the Major Leagues.

Typically a kid might get drafted out of high school and head directly to the minor leagues, starting at the bottom.  Or he may attend a college or university and play on the school team for a few years before being drafted and then, typically, he'll go to the minor leagues, starting at the bottom.  Some guys spend a decade waiting for a call to come to The Show.  For some, it's maybe for as cup of coffee, just to get a taste of major league ball and then it's back to the minors.

What's this got to do with Monte Santoccio?  Is he a first baseman for the Verona Romeo's baseball team?  

Well, actually, Santoccio is a little area near the "big city" of Fumane and the winery is the work of a young fellow named Nicola Ferrari.  And his first winemaking "gig" was in the major leagues at the winery of Valpolicella legend, the late Giuseppe Quintarelli!   He didn't spend a decade laboring in a big grower's co-operative or large industrial winery before deciding to make his own...Nope.  

This kid was in the major leagues right away, making him a bona fide "bonus baby."  (I wonder if any young fans have ever heard this term?)

The family estate comprises about 3 hectares and they produce a mere 400 bottles of Amarone and 10,000 of Ripasso and Rosso. Maybe a few bottles of Recioto.  That's it.

We tasted a 2010 vintage of Ferrari's Ripasso and found the wine to be of really good quality.  It's Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara.  At some point, the skins of their Amarone are introduced in tank and the fermentation continues.  From there, the wine is pressed and put into Slavonian oak barrels for about a year and a half.   

It's a medium-full bodied red wine.  There's a whiff of ripe, dark fruits and maybe a note of cocoa or cocoa powder...dry...nicely intense without a blast of tannin, so it's quite drinkable now.  Of course, pairing it with stews or braised meats makes a lot of sense for a gastronomical treat.  Even a bunch of grilled sausages and some polenta will allow this wine to shine.
 

Currently in stock:  2010 MONTE SANTOCCIO Ripasso  $29.99 


 

 






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