Podere Sapaio Volpolo 2005

Podere Sapaio Volpolo, Bolgheri Rosso DOC

The words “experimentation” and “innovation” are a lot like guns: get the wrong people involved and things can go terribly wrong.

But, at Podere Sapaio, where experimentation and innovation in seeking new expressions of Bordolese (Bordeaux) vines in Bolgheri is the ruling philosophy, we need not worry: owner Massimo Piccin is just the kind of person to make things go right. Very right.

I spent a day with Massimo a few years ago, tasting Podere Sapaio’s wines and making some professional visits. I enjoyed the wines and the time I spent with Massimo very much, and so was happy to recently find a bottle of Podere Sapaio’s Volpolo 2005 sitting on the retail shelf.

podere-sapaio-volpolo-2005Located in Tuscany nearby Castagneto Carducci, Podere Sapaio was established in 1999. Under the good guidance of consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini, Podere Sapaio produces two wines, Volpolo and Sapaio (Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC), different interpretations of the Bolgheri territory.

The names Volpolo and Sapaio derive from ancient Tuscan vines called Volpola and Sapaia. The wine names, along with Podere Sapaio’s trademark crown logo on the bottle label, were especially chosen to pay tribute to the nobility of both the land and its wines.

Volpolo is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot. Vineyards are situated above quaternary deposits and soil includes loose sandy and well-drained calcareous components. Selected grapes are manually harvested.

Fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled steel vats. The wine is then aged in barrique for 14 months followed by an additional 6 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Deeply colored red with purple reflections. Cedar and spice, leather, smoke, and earth on the nose. A powerful, curvaceously smooth palate shows great concentration of dark fruit balanced by delicious acid and just the right flex of smooth tannins. Notes of coffee and cocoa powder. Smooth and long on a brushed-velvet finish.

Note: Decanted for ninety minutes.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: beef, veal, lamb, or game, this wine is the perfect filet mignon partner; PASTA: richly sauced pasta of all types; RISOTTO / POLENTA: with sausages; CHEESES: young – medium aged cheeses

Tenuta Vitanza Brunello Le Paturnie 2003

Tenuta Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino Le Paturnie 2003

A small preparation will be helpful:

Before reading further, I suggest you clear your schedule for three minutes and entrust yourself to the graceful power that is dancer Polina Semionova.

Warning: This Video Contains Scenes of Graphic Beauty.

Thank you, Polina. OK, it’s time for our topic, Tenuta Vitanza’s Brunello di Montalcino Le Paturnie 2003:

tenuta-vitanza-brunello-le-paturnie-2003“Three Words…To Start”, reads the company’s website menu bar. The three words – Charm, Love, Passion – introduce the storyline by Rosalba Vitanza, telling of the tradition and beginnings of still young Tenuta Vitanza located in the Tuscany region of Italy, an estate which has already distinguished itself as a producer of high quality wines.

Rosalba, a Ph.D. in Philosophy, and husband Guido Andretta, himself a successful Engineer and Management Consultant, together own Tenuta Vitanza. Rosalba focuses her attention upon winemaking while Guido applies his energy as Director of Sales.

Tenuta Vitanza’s Brunello di Montalcino Le Paturnie 2003 expresses a graceful power – like the elegant strength of a ballerina – without overdone muscularity, an idea I think is now made clear enough, thank you Polina 😉

The estate’s Brunello Le Paturnie is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes. Vines average ten years in age. Consistent with the style of Vitanza’s Le Paturnie line, winemaking is traditional (read: no barrique) with wood time spent in Slavonian oak cask for 24 months. Soil composition is skeletal / fossil rich tufaceous clay.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Sensual perfume of red and black cherries, underbrush, cocoa, and alluringly understated notes of wood. Bright sensations of vibrant red cherry give good counterpoint to a darker-toned cherry flavor that seems to set the flavor mood. Harmonious, overall balance hangs in till the end with a nicely tannic, refined finish.

NOTE: Decanted for 1 hour after which the wine opened up beautifully.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: pork, beef / veal, rabbit, duck, guinea hen, or lamb; rosemary scented pork loin served with roasted potatoes is superb. PASTA / POLENTA: wide pasta noodles like pappardelle or polenta, served with any of the meats mentioned above, with a sauce made from the meat cookings; consider rabbit wrapped in prosciutto – tremendous. CHEESES: young – medium aged cheeses.

Featured Producer: Produttori del Barbaresco

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2004 normale
Produttori del Barbaresco, Nebbiolo Langhe 2007, DOC
Produttori del Barbaresco, Nebbiolo Langhe 2008

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2004 normale

I’ve decided to tell you first about the Produttori “Barbaresco” wine label for inspiration:

produttori-barbaresco-2004-thumb2Take a moment to regard the aureus – the gold coin of ancient Rome – imprinted on the wine’s label.  You can see it in the graphic at left.  With bottle in hand, brush your fingers over the aureus, feel its raised, embossed lettering.  Feel the detailed relief of the image bust.  Feel history.  The coin was struck during the reign of Roman Emperor Pertinax, emperor of Rome for just 86 days, who appears to have been born in the area of Barbaresco / Alba.  There is an amazing history associated with the reign of Pertinax, but that is another story, one I hope you become familiar with should you decide to enjoy the wine.

Barbaresco is a charming, characteristically enigmatic wine:  at 14%, it exhibits strength, yet it is a delicate, floral perfume which is one of its most irresistable characteristics; on the palate Barbaresco is full bodied and flavorful, but still one’s sense of touch recognizes a tender, velvetly quality about it; powerful tannins take the stage but maintain a graceful, ballet-like balance with the wine’s other components.  Barbaresco wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo, which can be a finicky, difficult grape to grow.  When conditions are right, however, Nebbiolo produces elegant and complex wines capable of long ageing.

Generally speaking, in the world of Italian wine, the word “co-operative” – a collectively owned organization producing wine – is not always associated with the highest levels of quality.  Produttori del Barbaresco, however, is a solid exception.  Year after year, Produttori del Barbaresco have made their name by pridefully maintaining the highest standards and quality practices.

Produttori del Barbaresco is successor to the original Cantine Sociali founded by Domizio Cavazza in 1893: unfortunately, during the 1920’s, the 9 vineyard owner members who came together to make wine only from the Nebbiolo grape were forced to close the cooperative in the face of fascist economic politics.  When in 1958 a local priest recognized that growers would fare better by sharing resources, a “version 2.0” of the co-op was re-founded with a membership of 19 growers as Produttori del Barbaresco.  Today, the cooperative has grown to approximately 60 members strong, producing approximately 420,000 bottles per year.

Produttori Barbaresco is produced every year from 100 or so hectares of various multiple grower vineyards in the Barbaresco DOCG zone under direct control of the Produttori.  Most are in near proximity to the actual commune of Barbaresco in Italy’s Piedmont region.

The soil is clay like, rich in both calcium and limestone with sandy aspects.

The 2004 vintage is typically full bodied and characterized by bright fruit and floral aromatics with the hallmark strong tannic structure of classic Barbaresco.  The wine was vinified in stainless steel with fermentation completing in 18 days and was then matured for 20 months in oak cask.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A musical metaphor is required:  It’s intense – it’s the whole orchestra playing a profound, far reaching melody.  Sweet, ripe cherry fruit embellished with floral notes, spice, herbs, and a hint of balsam pine resonate on the nose and palate. Classic Barbaresco tannins remind you of their authority, never getting out balance in the overall “mix”.  Finally, the finish: reverberation. Echo. Re-echo.  Long and beautiful.

Food pairing suggestions:

Poultry and red meat: try pan fried veal cutlets filled with melted fontina cheese, or a braised beef dish;  Casseroles: bean casserole “Fagiolata” with sliced cabbage and sausage, served with polenta;  Egg pasta with rich meat sauces; Risotto – especially mushroom, truffled, or sausage; Mature cheeses; Fondue.


Produttori del Barbaresco, Nebbiolo Langhe 2007, DOC

produttori-nebbiolo-langheEach year, Produttori del Barbaresco declassifies between 10 – 30 percent of its production to sell as Nebbiolo Langhe. Nebbiolo Langhe – a deliciously second label to Produttori’s Barbaresco – is a wine the quality of Barbaresco, with vivid, characterful, but, younger fruit, good acidity and tannins.

The 2007 Nebbiolo Langhe is made of 100% Nebbiolo grapes from different vineyards in the Barbaresco zone. Vineyard exposures range from south, west, and east, in soil of limestone, rich in calcium, and with sandy components.

Fermentation was carried out in concrete vats with 22 days on the skins. The wine was then matured for six months in large oak.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty garnet color with scents of cherries, raspberries, violets, and spice on the nose. Cherries and raspberries continue on to the palate, accompanied by notes of earth and eucalyptus, delicious acidity. Nice articulation, molto elegant 😉

Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe 2008

Tasting Notes / Impressions

Intensely vivid cherry aromas spin around a scented thread of spice cake. On the palate, red and black cherries, subtle hints of cola and mountain herb. A remarkable intensity of fruit and a long, crystal clean finish. One to consider for your “wines-not-to-miss” list.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: Grilled or braised meats – baby lamb chops recommended; POULTRY: Roasted bird or medium-rich sauced breasts; PASTA: Baked and stuffed, gnocchi, try grilled vegetable lasagna; RISOTTO: mushroom; VEGETABLES: Grilled in combination; CHEESES: Medium aged; CURED MEATS


Italian Wines and World Cuisines: Pairing Outside-the-Box

The wine world is recently abuzz with predictions about wine trends during the coming year.

I come terribly under-dressed to the party: I have only an observation to offer you.

italian-wine-international-foodThere are two reasons for this: somewhere along the way, I have concluded that prediction is the stuff of weathermen / women. And besides, my ideas about enjoying wine, life, and weather are too interconnected: today – in the only day we really have – live well, drink well, and don’t worry too much about guessing the weather for Friday.

Oh, right, the observation. This is the detail I wanted to get to:

Italian wines and unique world cuisines are moving toward one another as part of a mainstream dining experience. And, more and more, people I meet are searching out these new opportunities for inspired, exciting, outside-the-box pairings of Italy’s great food wines with foods they love from the international table.

Allow me to introduce the very ubiquitous Pinot Grigio paired with three great dinners from very unique food traditions:

Salmon Roe on Buttered Toast Points
White Borscht Soup
Pierogi with Cheese and Potato
Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon

Fried Bean Curd Skin Rolls with Shrimp or Pork
Fishball Soup
Fried Rice Noodles with Vegetables
Chinese Broccoli Shoots

Smoked Tomato & Goat Cheese with Warm Tortillas
Tortilla Soup
1/2 Roasted Chipotle Chicken with Fried Plantain Coconut Rice
Jicama, Arugula & Grapefruit Salad

Recommended Producers of Pinot Grigio include: Alois Lageder, H. Lun, Livio Felluga

Eat… Drink… Live well… Don’t worry too much about the weather 😉

Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia 2000

Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia 2000, DOCG

You sometimes hear of Barolo’s haunting, ethereal character. Appropriate. The historical spirit of Barolo seems filled with ghosts and memories:

Of fathers and mothers grown old working the vineyards, and
times when you had to walk to get anywhere;
Wheat and maize planted between vine rows,
hail storms that destroyed the bunches.
Of youth spent working:
vineyards by day, hunting truffles by night.
Hand-washing the bottles, and
big families helping each other.
Wines that could out live you and tasted like where you stood. 1

fontanafredda-barolo-lazzarito-vigna-la-delizia-2000Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia is produced in an area of Italy’s Piedmont where the spirit of tradition and terroir is more than just apparition.

The cellars and estate of Fontanafredda were established during the late 1870’s by Emmanuel Guerrieri, Count of Mirafiori, who was apparently blessed with the passion, vision and means to produce quality wines. Drawing on over 125 years of experience, the Tenementi Fontanafredda brand expresses a “…vast heritage in terms of values, experience and style built up by Fontanafredda…”2; and was “…created to meet the expectations of lovers of wines with a strong personality: authentic expressions of a wine-growing culture with a long-standing tradition…”3

Made from 100% nebbiolo grapes from the La Delizia plot, Fontanafredda’s Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia hails from an area of the Barolo zone nearby the village of Serralunga d’Alba, a locale known for long-lived, well-structured wines. La Delizia – which borders another important cru Lazzarito – is located at approximately 400 meters altitude with south/southwest exposure in a sedimentary marine soil that includes a calcareous marl component.

Key winemaking processes include frequent precision pumping of juice over the cap, maceration of 20-30 days and controlled temperature fermentation (alcoholic and malolactic). Matured in barrels of 50% new Allier oak for approximately twelve months, the wine is then racked into medium sized oak cask for an additional year. The wine is clarified with egg whites, bottled, and cellared for one further year before release.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Medium ruby color punctuated by flecks of crimson and, around the edges, just a tinge of burnt orange. Over several hours, aromas would appear, be gone, some only to reappear, vestiges of dried rose and cherry, plum, tobacco, mushroom, cola, ginger cake, and balsam. An utterly seductive palate experience features the simultaneous sensations of density and softness. Solidly structured, with close-grained tannins that have a cashmere-like fineness. The wine finishes with such a decrescendo of softness that it seems to momentarily exist somewhere just beyond touch.

Still capable of many cellar years.

NOTE: I decanted this wine for 2 hours before really sitting down with it.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: rich meat dishes of beef, rabbit, chicken or duck, perhaps wrapped in pancetta and braised or roasted (note: I wouldn’t wrap the duck in pancetta). Use the juices to create a sauce to serve with polenta or pasta. CHEESES: medium to full aged cheeses.

1, Original remix drawn from impressions of A Wine Atlas of the Langhe, section Barolo, Eye Witness Reports

2, 3 from Tenementi Fontanafredda website