Sunday, March 29, 2009

Frecciarossa “Sillery” (2007) Oltrepò Pavese; Lombardy

An unusual and delicious Italian wine from Frecciarossa, a family run winery that has been in the game since the early years of the nineteeth century. The estate encompasses some 35 hectares in the town of Frecciarossa in the Municipality of Casteggio where the Odero family organically grow Riesling Renano, Pinot Nero, Croatina, Barbera, Uva Rara and Merlot. The 2007 "Sillery" is a complete delight. The wine is 100% Pinot Nero, gently harvested by hand in small crates and vinified as a white wine by soft pressing to avoid color extraction. As a result, the wine is nearly clear. The nose, however, is fruity, richly intense, and long lasting with hints of white flowers and citrus. Well balanced acidity. A very elegant wine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Dolomiti (2007) Alto Adige

A terrific Italian white wine from premier winemaker Alois Lageder that almost made me forget it’s a Pinot Grigio. From Alto Adige; one of the smallest of Italy’s viticultural regions, and because of its geographical placement, also one of the most diverse. The Alps to the north, which give protection from cold winds, also makes for cool nights. This promotes a slow, even ripening of the grapes that allows for the preservation of their aroma and acids which give the wine its freshness and elegance. Mediterranean influences also stream up from the south and bless the region with over 300 days of sunshine a year (just like Chicago) to help add further richness to the grapes. The 2007 Dolomiti is 100% Pinot Gris from vineyards in Magrè, Salorno and the northern part of Trentino. The wine is a brilliant straw yellow in color with some light green highlights. Nice flowery/citrusy nose. Crisp acidity. Rich, full mouthfeel. Vinified and aged in stainless steel. 12.5% alcohol. Artist Elizabeth Holzl’s photograph on the label "shows the passage of light through a perforated surface, and thus refers to respiration, to the porosity of the soil and the leaves of the vine, to the exchanges always taking place between the earth and the surrounding atmosphere." Porosity, indeed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Castello di Fonterutoli Badiola (2007) Tuscany

An eponymous Super-Tuscan from Castello di Fonterutoli, one of Italy’s top wine producers, operating on an historic property just south of Castellina in Chianti, in the heart of Chianti Classico. The estate has been in the hands of the Mazzei family since 1435 and is today led by Lapo Mazzei and his sons, Francesco and Filippoa. The Fonterutoli estate (nearly a town) comprises over 1,100 acres, of which 195 acres are devoted to four distinct vineyard sites: Fonterutoli, Siepi, Badiola and Belvedere. The 2007 Badiola is a 75% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot blend from grapes grown in the Badiola and Fonterutoli vineyards. The hand harvested grapes are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in a combination of French and American oak barriques (10% new) for 9 months. The wine is "Smoke on the Water" in color, with a strong dark fruit and cocoa nose. The wine is very soft and plush. Nice fruit. Well balanced with a smooth, pleasing finish. 13.4% alcohol. Cool orange synthetic cork. Perfect for a man-date.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tormaresca Neprica (2007) Puglia

A spicy Italian red wine from Tormaresca, an investment vehicle for the Antinori’s who established the winery in 1998 after purchasing the vast (1,200 acres) vineyards of Bocca di Lupo and Masseria Maime in Puglia. With the help of Antinori enologist Renzo Cotarella, the wineries first wine debuted the following year. The wineries collection now encompasses a wide variety of both reds and whites. The 2007 Neprica is a blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Cabernet Sauvignon (hence the name). Vinified and aged in stainless steel. Very dark, ruby-red in color. Peppery, black fruit nose and palate. A tannic bite on the finish. Good pizza wine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Azienda Agricola Cieck Erbaluce di Caluso (2007) Piemonte

A crisp Italian white wine made from an unusual grape, the Erbaluce. Produced by Azienda Agricola Cieck, a winery founded in 1985 by Lodovico Bardesono and Remo Falconieri; both descendants of vine growers and winemakers who cultivate 16 hectares of vineyard on the hills of Canavese (north-west Piemonte). Cieck specializes in growing indigenous Piemontese grapes varieties: the Erbaluce, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Freisa. As a further nod to the unusual, the Erbaluce vines are grown on "pergola canavesana", a peculiar grape training system. The 2007 Erbaluce di Caluso is 100% Erbaluce. The bunches of grapes are pressed whole with the stems, skin and seeds removed immediately afterward. The must ferments in stainless steel tanks equipped with a temperature control system, all which help in retaining the delicate fruity characteristics of the wine. The wine is a sparkling straw yellow color, with a light apple/pear nose. The wines vibrant acidity is its selling point for me. Synthetic cork. 12.5% alcohol content.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Difficult Italian Wine Pairing; White Castle's Chicken Italiano Sandwich

"For a limited time only" Few words strike fear into the heart of a gourmand like "for a limited time only." Such as it was in late spring of 2008. The White Castle Chicken Italiano; nearly 4 square inches of Jersey Shore Italiano goodness. A breaded, deep-fried, chicken-like part, a slice of garlic flavored mozzarella cheese food, a slathering of an oddly sweet marinara-like sauce, all lovingly nestled between two halves of a soft, white bread bun. Delicious surely with your favorite soft drink; or better yet, piping hot coffee; but with Italian wine, something heaven sent. The question is, which wine? Tocai Friulano? Valpolicella? Chianti Classico? Since enjoying wine with any White Castle product involves taking your meal home, the wine pairing is made even more difficult. Time is not the friend of White Castle. On the drive home, the sparkle of deep frying and steam grilling fade into sogginess and coagulation. I found in that sweet "limited time only" of late spring 2008, textbook Italian wine pairings got thrown out the window. Wine, period; and in great quantity, was the perfect pairing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva (2004) Tuscany

Blah, blah, blah, blah. It seems the whole world already knows about Antinori’s legendary winemaking history (dating back to the 1300’s), their role in creating the "Super-Tuscan" revolution of the 1970’s (Tignanello), and about them being one of the biggest names in Italian wine. The question for today is, “Does anyone care?” I would say, “Not really”. It’s not that their wines aren’t good; in fact, many are terrific (if not cost prohibitive). I just don’t find anything compelling about Antinori’s forty year old “revolutionary” persona that they have built their legend upon. Maybe it’s the “branding baggage” associated with the legendary name that’s off-putting to me. That being said, I liked the 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva. It’s made up of 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and other complementary red varieties grown on the Antinori’s Santa Cristina, Pèppoli and Badia a Passignano estates in the Mercatale Val di Pesa zone in Chianti Classico. Antinori’s winemaking skill is evident in the wines suppleness and balance. The wine was aged in French 225-liter barriques (used for the second and third time) for about 14 months after a selection and blending process. At the end of the aging period, every barrique is tasted and blended again, after which the wine is bottled and aged for another year. Intense, ruby-red color. Nice, spicy hints of cinnamon, cloves and pepper on the nose. A very nice wine from a legendary, revolutionary producer. (Can you tell I am off-putted?)