Paladin Salbanello delle Venezie 2006

Paladin Salbanello delle Venezie 2006, IGT

In Italy, Annone Veneto is a place that takes its name from Ad Nonum Lapidem, referring to its ninth mile placement along the old Roman road via Postumia. Here, the Paladin wine estate sits surrounded by its vineyards, quite nearby the border with Friuli, where regional ways seem to flow together in an area of unique enological and cultural interest.

paladin-salsalbanello-2006Managed entirely by the Paladin family and headquartered in the Veneto, the Paladin Group markets 4 different brands of wine. Salbanello delle Venezie belongs to the estate’s Paladin range of wines which focuses on wines made from both native and international varietals. The Paladin estate was founded nearly 50 years ago by Valentino Paladin, whose children – Lucia, Carlo and Roberto – have influenced the estate toward more modern viticultural / enological practices and who today manage the day to day business.

Important members of the Paladin crew also include renowned consulting enologist Franco Bernabei who oversees production and Gianluigi Zaccaron who minds vinification.

Paladin’s Salbanello delle Venezie 2006 is made from Cabernet (80%) and Malbec (20%) grapes grown in calcareous clay soil. Fermentation is carried out in approximately 20 days time and the wine is then aged for 4 months in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A radiant ruby red, this wine’s harmony is found in its richness of fruit married to soft tannins. Aromas of red fruit and earth on the nose, with concentrated, velvety sensations of currants and berries on the palate that stay on to a svelte, pleasing finish. Utterly, wonderfully drinkable.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: baked ham, turkey, veal, sausages; Pasta: Salbanello is a great partner to pasta of most kinds, especially try pasta filled with meat or cheese, or dressed with ground meat ragu; Risotto: flavored with small bits of meat or earthy mushroom; Polenta: served with boiled meats and cabbage or sauteed in butter and flavored with Asiago cheese; Salumi: gorgeous with mortadella, soppressata, etc.; Cheeses: asiago, gorgonzola dolce, mozzarella.

This wine’s versatility makes it a great one to pair when enjoying “small bites”, small portions of several different kinds of foods.

For an eclectic food / wine experience, try this wine, slightly cooled, with Indian curry or masala !


Terra D’Arcoiris Chianti 2004

Terra d’Arcoiris Chianti 2004, DOCG

Nomads. Luck. Keepers. Poets.

During my research for this brief article of Terra D’Arcoiris and its Chianti 2004, those words became important for me because they tell a story wine, life and choice.

terra-darcoiris-2004-etichetta-giallaPaola Leonardi and Walter Loesch, self described as “partly nomads”, learned biodynamic agriculture and made cheese in Switzerland, kept bees in a southern Tuscany apiary, and today run the farm estate of Terra D’Arcoiris, located in the western hills of the Valdichiana nearby Chianciano Terme.

Luck came in 1987, when Paola and Walter found the piece of land upon which the estate Terra D’Arcoiris sits. Although they knew nothing then of vines and winemaking, they were hungry to learn. And luck came again, when a senior farm worker with expert knowledge of the land and process of wine was willing to guide the very committed Paola and Walter, transmitting to them the very knowledge to care for the vineyards.

Recognizing their role as keepers and caretakers of a blessed land, the work at Terra D’Arcoiris goes on with great respect and conscience: Fertilizer has not been used on the Terra D’Arcoiris vineyards since 1993. Natural grassing and mulching hay are used to good effect, and copper / sulpher based vine treatments are reduced both in dose and frequency. And Terra D’Arcoiris maintains an organic certification by “BioAgricert”.

In all this, Paola Leonardi and Walter Loesch stand to pass on to future generations a way of life and natural living that is both poetically expressive and creative, one that I fear may otherwise become lost in time without the contributions of such great poets of earth, culture and tradition. From the Terra D’Arcoiris website Paola and Walter write that, “It is a thin straw to hold on to, while crossing the rainbow of history.”

The Terra D’Arcoiris estate has older and younger vineyard plantings, ranging from 1968 to 2001. Grape varietals grown include Sangiovese, Canaiolo, white and black Malvasia, Trebbiano and Grechetto, as well as Mammolo, Fogliatonda and Ciliegiolo in the older vineyard; and in the younger vineyard, primarily Sangiovese along with Syrah and Merlot, Ciliegiolo, Fogliatonda, Mazzese and black Malvasia.

The Terra D’Arcoiris Chianti 2004 is made from organically grown Sangiovese (90%), Canaiolo and Black Malvasia (10%) grapes harvested by hand from vines grown in a medium clay soil at an elevation of approximately 380m. The time between grape picking and the winery is kept to 30 minutes maximum. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel vats and the wine is then matured in barriques for 6 months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A pretty ruby red color and bouquet of cherries, violets, rosemary and earth. An honest palate of luscious, dark cherry fruit with hints of balsam, strawberry and chocolate fills the mouth with full bodied chewiness. Mature, nicely integrated tannins and a wonderfully long finish.

NOTE: Decant this wine an hour or so ahead of time to enjoy its best expression.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meat: Beef, pork, roasted chicken or game birds, gorgeous with rosemary scented pork and roasted potatoes or chicken “alla cacciatora”; Pasta: dressed with meat or mushroom sauces; Risotto: try a mushroom risotto with smoked ham; Cured meats; Cheeses, especially Pecorino.


*Image of Terra D’Arcoiris Chianti bottle from

Gaja Magari 2006

Gaja Magari 2006, Toscana IGT

Magàri is one of those Italian words that has several meanings:

“I wish !”, “if only..”, “maybe / perhaps”.

“Of course !”, “you wish !” or “you bet !!!”.

All are pretty fair translations.

But magàri’s specific meaning is really defined by situation – one needs context to truly understand.

gaja-magari-bottleI don’t know for sure if Gaja was being ironic in naming his wine Magari. But I do find a certain irony in the imagined question, “Can you Really make a wine of classic Bordeaux blend that uniquely reflects Bolgheri terrior and the spirit of Tuscany?”

After tasting Gaja’s Magari 2006, I can only imagine the resounding answer: “Magàri !!!”, context = “You bet !!!” 😉

The legendary Angelo Gaja began thinking of branching out beyond his native Piemonte during the 1990’s. Two areas of Tuscany – Montalcino and Bolgheri – areas especially well known for their high quality reds, eventually became home to Gaja winemaking ventures.

Bolgheri is home to Ca’Marcanda, the estate that produces Gaja’s sumptuous IGT Toscana named Magari. In a way characteristic of other Gaja wines, Magari is deliberately made as an IGT wine, thus allowing the maestro to determine varietals and blend unfettered by DOC disciplinare regulations.

Although Gaja represents 4 generations of Piemontese winemaking, he came to Tuscany as a “learner”, not a “teacher”, translating generations of Piedmont winemaking experience to realize unique and optimal results with the Tuscan terroirs.

Magari is a blend of 50% Merlot and 25% each of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, grown on the Ca’Marcanda estate from vines averaging 10+ years old. Vinyards uniquely reflect a combination of dark and lighter soils – “terre brune” and “terre blanche”, respectively – featuring loamy clay (darker soil) and stones, pebbles, and limestone (lighter soil). Fermentation is carried out separately by varietal with blending taking place during the January / February following harvest . Maturation takes place in a combination of new and slightly used barriques for 18 months, followed by at least 6 months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Blueberry hues swirl and twist around a core of rich looking, deep garnet color, an almost visual language of the wine’s elegant, plush and rounded character. Sensuously ripe, plummy-cassis fruit and spice on the nose, plums continue through on the palate with alternating rushes of raspberry, espresso and chocolate. Good minerality and acidity, perfectly integrated oak, with classy tannins seductively cloaked by the wine’s soft, round personality. Finishes long and smooth, without a rasp or hard edge in sight.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: filet mignon, thick steaks, roast beef or rib roast (served with creamed spinach and mascarpone mashed potato !), grilled duck breast; roast or grilled lamb; guinea hen roasted with grapes and raisins; Pasta: try agnolotti or ravioli stuffed with spinach / chard and ricotta; Sushi, oil rich fish like tuna, salmon, eel; ALSO TRY this wine with Beijing Duck !!!


San Fereolo Dolcetto Valdibà

San Fereolo Dolcetto Valdibà 2006, DOC
San Fereolo Dolcetto Valdibà 2007

Who knew ??? …that some 50 million years ago when the African continental plate was sliding around, repeatedly creating seas and defining land surfaces, a result of all that violent movement would be …the lovely Langhe Hills 😉

At the Langhe’s southwestern edge, in the area known as Dogliani, Dolcetto has been growing since the 1500s! And for those of you with the impression that Dolcetto is a “Tuesday night” wine of little depth or san-fereolo-dolcetto-valdiba-2006-2complexity, please keep reading: Nicoletta Bocca’s San Fereolo Dolcetto is about to change your mind !

Within Dogliani, renowned for great Dolcetto, its Valdibà subzone plays host to vineyards of San Fereolo. Founded in 1992 by Nicoletta Bocca, San Fereolo today has approximately 16 hectares cultivated with vines averaging 40-60 years old.

Although it is often said that the name Dolcetto – the “sweet one” in Italian – is derived from the perception of the grape’s sweet flesh, the name more accurately reflects the grape’s low acidity and lack of obvious tannins. (Interestingly, the tannins in Dolcetto are located more in the grape seeds than in the skins.)

The connection of territory to San Fereolo and its wine(s) is a strong one: the area of Valdibà differentiates itself with higher altitude and greater amounts of clay in the soil, which, where the winemaking is talented enough not to silence nature’s good work, confers upon the wines an etheral bouquet and supple body.

In the vineyard, San Fereolo respects a natural balance with nature. Vineyards are not artificially watered and their growth cycle phases are all worked manually, from pruning to harvest. Mechanization is limited to copper and sulpher based methods to protect vines from pests and such heavy ground preparation work such as ploughing.

San Fereolo Valdibà 2006 is produced from 100% Dolcetto harvested by hand from soil showing a medium mix of clay, sand and limestone. The 2006 fermentation of Valdibà was carried out over 12 days, transformed by indigenous wild yeasts. The wine was then aged for 6 months in wood cask, and in steel for an additional 5, keeping the fine lees in suspension until bottling, thus making the wine richer and more long lasting.

Tasting Notes:

San Fereolo Dolcetto Valdibà 2006

A deep ruby color with flecks of violet and delicate aromas of ripened black cherries, violets, minerals and spice. In the mouth, a supple palate of cherry, plum, fig, currant, and cocoa stays nicely defined, framed by the wine’s good structure. A delicious, slighty bitter almond finish is ushered in with soft, but firm tannins. Remarkable depth, complexity, and purity of fruit in an entry level wine.

San Fereolo Dolcetto Valdibà 2007

Ruby red with blueberry-purple hues. Intense, gorgeous berry fruit, violets, and warm spice come immediately up from the glass. A core of red and black cherry flavor, hints of almond, accented by mineral notes on a warm, inviting palate. Shows finesse, supple structure, and drinks ever so smooth. I adore the counterpoint of cherry against subtle medicinal herb that resonates on the finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Veal chops stuffed with prosciutto or fontina (with thin truffle slices, if you have them!); Polenta casserole with pork and vegetables; Simple risotto with butter and parmigiano; Pasta, especially with mushroom sauces of butter or cream; Gnocchi with melted fontina cheese sauce; Stews of beef, lamb, or pork; THIS WINE is a good candidate to pair with milder Indian and Chinese dishes!


Book: “Too Much Tuscan Wine”, by Dario Castagno

Too Much Tuscan Wine, A Book by Dario Castagno with Robert Rodi

too-much-tuscan-wine-thumb5I’ve written before that, in my opinion, it is impossible to understand Italian wine without an awareness of the people, place, and culture that created it. But where does one find this magic? Unfortunately, I can name too many popular places where you cannot find it; but among the places you can, I suggest a copy of Too Much Tuscan Wine by Dario Castagno.

I don’t wish to focus on Dario “factoids” here – from what I can tell, neither would he want us to – so I’ll let you research Dario on your own.

In his book Too Much Tuscan Wine, Dario paints in prose a Tuscan countryside of picturesque beauty where the culture and tradition of wine figures prominently as a cast of sometimes quirky characters happily carry out life. Against the background of Dario writing a new book manuscript proposed by an intriguing editor named Mia, you’ll be charmed by real life stories that are oftentimes fueled by…well, too much wine.., and written with such a sense of place that it will have you thinking that if you press your ear to the Chianti ground you may hear the heart of Dario Castagno beating just below.

Fans of Tuscany and its wines will especially appreciate the many locally flavored anecdotes and maxims about wine found between the pages of Too Much Tuscan Wine, although any wine lover, of Italy or otherwise, will be enlightened and inspired by the insights the wine proverbs plentifully bestrewn throughout the book provide. It’s a perspective on wine I’d recommend not to miss 😉

Title: Too Much Tuscan Wine
Author: Dario Castagno
ISBN: 978-88-901102-4-5

Le Salette Valpolicella Classico 2007

Le Salette Valpolicella Classico 2007, DOC

That we can speak of faith and wine – è poesia 🙂

lesaletee-sanctuario-lesalette-a-fumane2The story goes that, in thankful devotion to the Madonna for sparing their vines from the devastation of a vineyard pestilence, local farmers faithfully built the sanctuary of Le Salette in the small village of Fumane in Italy’s Valpolicella region. Hanging precariously from a rocky ledge – building it there seems itself an act of faith – the sanctuary is said to still today protect the village.

Azienda Agricola Le Salette, with the same name as the sanctuary, is located in Fumane and is owned by the Scamperle family who have figured prominently as a winemaking family in Valpolicella for decades. With 20 or so hectares under vine in prestigious sites spread around Valpolicella Classico, Le Salette’s efforts are dedicated to growing traditional local varietals such as Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella, and producing quality wines that reflect a nice range of Valpolicella winemaking.

The Scamperle family apply a unique and thoughtful perspective to the production of their wines and to helping us understand them and the Valpolicella, as is made clear by the passionately informative video on their website: the old dry stone walls forming the traditional terraced landscapes – marogne in Italian – the natural drying of grapes and gorgeous landscapes, to name a few of the video highlights, are a joy to see:

lesalette-valpol-classico-labelLe Salette Valpolicella Classico is made from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Sangiovese, and Molinara grapes grown in mineral rich cretaceous soil with good skeletal presence. Le Salette conducts hand harvesting of the grapes with special attention to selection. Fermentation is conducted at controlled temperature over 10-12 days, followed by ageing 5 months in steel and 1 month in wood.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The color is a kaleidoscope mix of ruby and garnet refractions. Scents of dried cherries and spice rush from the glass, heralding in a similar palate that is sensual, soft, and balanced. A classy wine with a pretty smoothness nuanced by pleasant bitter almond.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Pair with pasta, rice, or polenta bianco dishes dressed with either mushroom or milder meat sauces; Vegetable casseroles such as white asparagus with bechamel; Stunning paired with mortadella with pistachio; Soups and stews; Young cheeses; Also, try this wine with German wursts, mild Indian curries, and Asian “Singapore Mei Fun” (curried rice noodles) !


*Photo credit of Le Salette Sanctuary to
*Video credit to Le Salette @, also at YouTube.