Poggio Argentiera Bellamarsilia

Poggio Argentiera Bellamarsilia 2006, DOC
Poggio Argentiera Bellamarsilia 2007, DOC

Open your mind to the impressions of sound.

OK? Listen carefully:


A wine whose nature is communicated by the soft, round, warm, open sounds of its name.

poggio-argentiera-bellamarsilia-2006From Poggio Argentiera, this Morellino di Scansano named Bellamarsilia is at once typical of Maremma yet drinks with a unique interpretation of spirit and place.

What we’d consider in the States to be a “local guy”, Maremma native and agronomist Gianpaolo Paglia, along with British wife Justine Keeling, herself a marketing professional, founded Poggio Argentiera in 1998. Though still a young estate, Poggio Argentiera is well on the way to becoming the darling of Morellino di Scansano lovers.

Morellino di Scansano is one of the great Sangiovese wines and is currently providing incredible value for money, giving Chianti Classico wines a bit of challenge in the marketplace.

Poggio Argentiera owns 22 hectares of land under vine, and has another 18 or so under lease or direct control. Of the 22 owned, these are spread over two estates: Podere Adua, just south of Grosetto, 6 km or so inland from the sea; and Podere Keeling, further inland, north of Scansano, in the village of Baccinello. Altitudes vary from just meters above sea level at Podere Adua to 270 meters at Podere Keeling. Soil composition includes both some sand and clay.

Bellamarsilia is made from Sangiovese 85%, Ciliegiolo 10%, and Alicante 5%. Temperature controlled fermentation, maceration carried out over 14 days. The wine is matured in a combination of vats, stainless steel (3/4) and cement (1/4) for a period of approximately 4 months time.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Poggio Argentiera Bellamarsilia 2006

I loved the warm, satin body of this wine. Aromatics of black cherry, Mediterranean herb, hint of anise and leather. On the palate, the wine is lushly soft and round, with dark flavors of cherry, cocoa, milk chocolate. A mellow, yet firm structure remains alert. Silky tannins, pleasant finish.

Poggio Argentiera Bellamarsilia 2007

This vintage offers a bit more intensity of aroma than 2006 and a somewhat brighter character as red cherry and violets lift the mood against a luscious dark cherry background. Suggestions of raspberry and cocoa powder emerge on a palate that remains seductively round, soft, and lush. The wine’s firm structure is a teasing counterpoint against its softness, although the ’06 had slightly broader shoulders in this regard. Good concentration and a smooth, focused finish.

And now: a word picture for you:


Food Pairing Suggestions:

STEWS: Veal stew with velvety brown sauce thickened with a butter / flour roux; MEATS: pork roasted with milk; roast pork loin wrapped in pancetta; calf or pork liver fried with sage in olive oil / butter; thin veal cutlets sautéed in olive oil, butter, perhaps rolled with prosciutto PASTA: Fettuccine or Pappardelle with duck, rabbit, or game hen; POLENTA: Polenta slices, grilled in butter and olive oil, serve topped with “sunny side up” fried eggs; RISOTTO: Creamy risotto served with chicken or quail; CHEESES: parmigiano reggiano or medium aged pecorino


Valdinera Langhe Favorita Bricco della Quaglia 2008

Valdinera Langhe Favorita Bricco della Quaglia 2008, DOC

On Saturdays, I like to disappear. I fade from my weekly routine and travel vicariously to destinations that, at least for the moment, capture my culinary imagination: I head for the food markets.

I wear eye glasses and am accustomed to lenses. So, what I am about to tell you is of no inconvenience to me: on these excursions I tend to view the world through the lens of Italian wine.

There’s more to vision than meets eye.

French bread, an “epine” loaf, bought early that morning. And then, incredible red potatos. Of course, there was the bacon. And the small greens were too wonderful to pass by.

By 1pm, sunlight poured in through the big window and across the potted chickens & hens we bought on Martha’s Vineyard, warmed the terracotta container keeping Tuscan Blue Rosemary, and spilled onto the table where waited a simple lunch of red potato salad with crumbled bacon, crusty French bread, and small greens salad.

valdinera-favorita-2008It was the Valdinera Favorita Bricco di Quaglia that transformed it all into something special.

So, we ate. Who was I in that moment, Where was I? Disappeared. Home. Italy. France. Everywhere. A nobleman, a peasant.

A typical Saturday.

The Valdinera estate is located in Italy’s Piedmont, at Corneliano d’Alba. The estate is owned by the Careglio family which notes four generations in the wine business. Approximately 11 hectares of the estate’s land property is under vine. The Careglio family, in addition to Favorita, also produces Barbera, Arneis, and Nebbiolo.

The literature ranges between telling us that Favorita is a synonym for Vermentino, is a bio-type of Vermentino, or actually is Vermentino, originated in Spain, and moved into Piedmont by way of Ligurian merchant traders who gave the vine as gifts to commercial associates.

Via the importer’s web site site (www.jgwines.com) the producer states that they “…do not use artificial fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides”.

Valdinera’s Favorita is made from 100% Favorita varietal sourced from the Bricco Quaglia vineyard. Soil composition is sandy; altitude of Valdinera’s south facing vineyards is 330m – 380m. The wine is vinified and matured in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A pale straw color, fragrant and elegant, with fruity notes of fresh peaches, floral tones, fresh cut grass, and zesty scents of grapefruit. The palate has a vitality (read: acidity) and fullness that I found refreshingly good. Dry, with delicate suggestions of almond and herb on the finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

ELEGANT APPETIZERS / SIDES: warm Frisee salad; stuffed zucchini blossoms; red potato salad with crumbled bacon; baked pepper stuffed with olives, tuna, herbs, oil / mayonnaise; roasted peppers with anchovy dressing; FISH / SEAFOOD: trout cooked in butter, sage, thyme or perhaps simmered with broth, onion, bay leaf; cold crabmeat, lox, or chicken salad with good mayonnaise and capers; PASTA: delicate angel hair pasta with lobster or crabmeat in a light cream sauce; RISOTTO: mildy flavored vegetable risotto; WHITE MEATS: mildly flavored white meat dishes


Bisson Bianchetta Genovese “U Pastine” Golfo Del Tigullio 2007

Bisson Bianchetta Genovese “U Pastine” Golfo Del Tigullio 2007, DOC

I’ve written before that beauty doesn’t always arrive to great fanfare and announcement. I find this especially true of wine. Wines often reveal their beauty slowly: gradual, unhurried, nonchalant as in the grandest of seductions.

bisson-bianchetta-genovese-2007Bisson’s Bianchetta Genovese will not arrive to the sound of trumpets. Its demure nature is part of its beauty. Stay where you are… you are about the meet an unusually captivating dinner partner.

Bisson was established in 1978 by Pierluigi Lugano whose passion for the wines of the Ligurian coast fueled ambition: Pierluigi didn’t inherit a grand and noble estate – he began trading wine on a small scale, became a successful merchant and eventually an equally successful winemaker and land owner.

That Pierluigi has passion to fuel ambition is a good thing: cultivating the steep, stony slopes of Liguria’s coastline would be no easy day at the beach. Vineyard operations are carried out by hand as machinery in this environment is most difficult. In any case, Pierluigi, advocating the “great wines are made in the vineyard” philosophy, would probably opt to do it all by hand anyway.

Known as “U Pastine” – local dialect indicating a special product – Bisson’s Bianchetta Genovese is made from northwestern Italy’s rare Bianchetta Genovese varietal (sometimes aka Albarola) and is fermented in stainless steel.

I’ve promised you a captivating dinner partner:

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

At table, pale gold in color, the wine is quiet at first. Wait moments, minutes, it’s not important. Aromas of apple, pear, and field flowers will find you soon enough with depth beyond the usual expressions. Then, summer hay, fresh and clean – and a micro-second of sea salted time passes. In the mouth, an immediate sensation of richness opens up to a broad mid-palate of apple, pear, and almond. In-mouth aromas of coastal pine and fennel. Nicely focused, good minerality and acidity.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Saltwater fish and seafood stews are super first choices for pairing this wine. Similarly, spaghetti with fish or seafood in a light, red, garlicky sauce will work well, too. I also suggest you consider this wine paired to basil pesto: pasta al pesto, perhaps, or a small bit of pesto as added flavoring to the fish / seafood stews. Another excellent option: seafood risotto. As a side dish to one of the above paired with the wine, you might consider serving a simple fennel salad with fresh orange wedges, dressed with olive oil and salt.


Featured Producer: Michele Satta

Michele Satta Bolgheri Rosso 2006, DOC
Michele Satta Diambra Rosso 2007, IGT
Michele Satta Costa di Giulia 2007, IGT

viale_dei_cipressiBefore Bolgheri, the coastal wine region of Tuscany in Italy, became famous for its wines, it was famous for its boulevard of historic cypress trees,  the *Viale dei Cipressi, immortalized in the poetry of Giosue Carducci who lived in Bolgheri between 1838-1848.

Helping to make the wines of Bolgheri famous to lovers of Italian wine is Michele Satta.  Satta, one of a group of elite Bolgheri wine producers, has proven to be the classic “switch hitter”, capable of moving with agility from career beginnings in agricultural management to professional life as a successful wine producer.  Located in the area of Castagneto Carducci, the Michele Satta estate comprises about 25 hectares of vineyard planted to the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Vermentino, and Sauvignon Blanc to name a few, varietals that seem to have adapted incredibly well in Bolgheri and give classic expression to Bolgheri wines.

bolgheri-rossoMichele Satta’s Bolgheri Rosso 2006 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Merlot 30%, Sangiovese 30%, and Syrah 10% grown in soil of good exposure and rich in minerals.  Only the best matured grapes are hand selected for Satta’s Bolgheri Rosso from high density vineyards (6.200+ plants/ha).  No artificial yeasts are used in conducting the fermentation and contact with skins is allowed for 3 weeks or so.  The wine is bottled unfiltered after 12 months ageing in barrique (Satta has expanded cellaring capabilities, having dug into hill and rock to acommodate space requirements for barrique ageing.)

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The wine’s deep, rather intense ruby red color signals the wonderfully vivid aromatics of red and black fruit to come, showing hints of tobacco, saddle leather and spice.  Fresh red and black fruits follow through to the palate, full of life and easy to drink with good acidity and nicely integrated oak.  Enough backbone to stand up to rich foods and a smooth, fruity finish sporting velvety tannins that leave you wanting for more.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats:  beef, veal chops, or lamb – try beef as a first choice;  Pasta:  dressed in rich meat sauces;  Cheeses:  fresh cheeses;  TRY this wine with international dishes such as Asian / Thai spicy noodles or mild-medium spiced Indian lamb dishes.


michele-satta-diambra-rosso-20071Michele Satta Diambra Rosso 2007

Satta’s Diambra Rosso 2007 sits on a varietal foundation of Sangiovese 70%, the remaining 30% being Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and allowable others. Fermentation / maceration is drawn out over three weeks time with the usual pumping over activities. After malolactic, the wine spends 6 months in wood before bottling.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty cerulean blues refract around a deep ruby core while scents of ripe berries, undertones of scrub pine and cedar catch my attention as I look on. The wine has a big, round, soft presence on the palate with flavors of red and black fruit, herbs, and a hint of almond. Soft, but very present tannins and good acidity give definition. Nice all round balance and a lively, clean finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: aged beef, roast beef, bison steaks or ground bison “burgers”, grilled pork or chicken; Pasta: sauced conservatively with meat sauces, especially that contain a bit of cream; Cheese: young Pecorino, brie, camembert, ricotta salata; Cured Meats: mortadella with pistachio, prosciutto


michele-satta-costa-di-giulia-2007Michele Satta Costa di Giulia 2007 IGT

After beginning life as 100% Vermentino, Satta’s Costa di Giulia is now made from 65% Vermentino and 35% of the Sauvignon he planted in 1995 – testimony to Satta’s conviction that Bolgheri is capable of producing great white wines as well as reds.

Super care and attention is given in the vineyard with work being carried out by hand. Afterward controlled temperature fermentation is followed by malolactic, then bottling in February.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A sunny, amber-gold color seems to lend the right spirit to the wine’s vivacious nose composed of peachy, floral tones. Peach follows onto the palate, along with a suggestion of grapefruit and a delicious note of mineral sea salt. Good weight and structure – all curves, no angles. Long on the finish, and balancing a rather appealing, slightly bitter herbiness with delicious, sweet fruit.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Seafood, grilled fish and grilled vegetables are in the sweet spot for foods to pair well with this wine. Especially try: Appetizer of stuffed artichoke (breadcrumbs, garlic, pecorino, parsley) or a cool, crab meat salad; Spaghetti with lobster (or crab) in a light red sauce; Seafood stew like Bouillabaisse or a Risotto “frutti di mare”.

*Viale dei Cipressi photo from Wikipedia, where you can see it and read more about Viale dei Cipressi: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viale_dei_Cipressi