Featured Producer: Sportoletti

SPORTOLETTI ASSISI ROSSO 2007, DOC
SPORTOLETTI VILLA FIDELIA ROSSO 2005, UMBRIA IGT

Be praised, my Lord, be praised with all your creatures,
especially our brother, Master Sun,
through whom you bring us day and give us light.
He is, Most High, a living sign of you,
so beautifully he shines with splendor bright.

— Canticle of the Creatures, St. Francis of Assisi

Sun and soul: an inspired combination in the area of Assisi in Umbria 😉

Umbrian producer Sportoletti brings us wines that shine with their own expression of sun, soul and Assisi character.

With 20 or so hectares of vineyards among the hills of Spello and Assisi, the Sportoletti family produces four different wines – 2 reds, 2 whites – as well as olive oil. Led by brothers Ernesto and Remo, Sportoletti uses a low yield / high density strategy in the vineyard, along with planting of selected clones. Riccardo Cotarella is consulting oenologist / winemaker.

SPORTOLETTI ASSISI ROSSO 2007, DOC

sportoletti-assisi-rosso-1Sportoletti Assisi Rosso is made from Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet, grown at an altitude of about 400 meters. Soil consistency is sandy with a skeletal component deriving from the weathering of a marine sandstone / rock aspect. Average age of the cordon spur trained vines is about 18 years.

Fermentation is carried out over 10 – 15 days in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation is 100% completed and the wine is refined in wood over a few months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A medium-dark ruby color, the wine has super-fresh scents of red cherries, red & black berries, herbs, and subtle spice notes. Excellent intensity of fruit on the palate, hints of cocoa and chocolate almond, and an alertness of character that reminds me of the way a top road bicycle handles when you take it through a tight corner at speed. Elegant tannins coax in a soulful, refined finish.

Food pairing suggestions: MEATS: roasted, pan-fried or grilled red meat & poultry; especially try: lamb chops with garlic and herbs; chicken or sausage cooked with sweet red and yellow peppers or fennel; PASTA: served with red sauce – meat or meatless- or with olive oil base, perhaps fusilli with peppers, onions, and sausage; POLENTA: suggesting meat sauce…with rabbit would be especially good as would “pollo cacciatore”.

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SPORTOLETTI VILLA FIDELIA ROSSO 2005, UMBRIA IGT

When Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won Gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics she made balance look easy.

Sportoletti’s Villa Fidelia Rosso 2005 treats us to a similarly effortless expression of balance.

sportoletti-villa-fidelia-umbria-igt-2005-2Villa Fidelia Rosso 2005 is a Bordeaux blend made from massal clone Merlot – propagated from vine owned by Sportoletti for fifty years – and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. Production vineyards lie at an altitude of 400m and have a medium consistency sandy type soil.

After 15-20 days maceration on the skins, temperature controlled fermentation, the wine is refined in French oak cask for one year and then in bottle for one additional year.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A deep garnet color beneath sexy aromas of dark cherry, raspberry, currant, tobacco, spice and subtle hints of flowers. Elegant and intense on the palate with a silky core of ripe fruit, impressions of menthol, and really well integrated, dusty tannins. Rich, persistent finish. Spectacular balance all the way through.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: roasted red meats, suggest roast beef or lamb; PASTA: red sauced pasta dishes, unusually good with a bit a cream added; and especially baked pasta: try rigatoni baked with sausage and ricotta cheese; POLENTA: recommend beef, lamb or veal medallions with rich wine / reduction sauce served over polenta; VEGETARIAN: consider a meatless “Bolognese” pasta dish or ratatouille vegetables over polenta. A touch of cream in either sauce would add richness for an especially nice meatless entrée with this wine; CHEESES: I like this wine with creamier cheeses like Tomme, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Camembert.

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A Bad Day, Noodles and Aglianico

The commute sucked, the rain was relentless, and the work day had its way with me.

Finally home, crazy hungry, I fall onto the sofa and snap on an episode of THE OFFICE just as a plate of noodles with sweet and sour pork arrives to the rescue.

What’s to drink, I wonder. A half bottle of previously opened Aglianico del Vulture stares me down, as if reading my mind.

[ thinking ] … Is that a dare?

At first, uncertainty, trepidation. And then… chilled out calm factor pervades:

No fear.

noodles-sweet-sour-sauce-bisceglia-aglianic-del-vulture-2006The wine’s dark fruit and spice gave compliment to the Asian sweet and sour sauce, bringing “bottom” and depth of flavor to the pairing. Good structure and minerality checked sweet / sour components from smearing, and soft tannins in just the right measure left balance of the sauce undisturbed. The wine’s remarkable freshness – apparent even though previously opened – was nicely suited to the dish.

I search for an allegorical moral to the story:

Bad days end with relaxing about the tasting experience.

Knowing what tastes good in your own mouth is as natural as breathing. Taste wines you like or have interest in. Put them with foods that you like and or have interest in. What’s to worry, you can’t be wrong… it’s your palate and you’re the expert on that 😉

THE WINE:
Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006, $

THE SAUCE:
1 part white vinegar, 2 parts cooking wine, 3 parts sugar, 4 parts light soy sauce, 5 parts water. Simmer all in sauce pan and add corn starch to thicken and red pepper flakes for spiciness to taste. Use with chicken, pork, or shrimp served with rice or noodles.

Sartarelli : One Thing Done Very Well

Le Marche producer Sartarelli does one thing and does it well. Very well.

It’s spelled V-E-R-D-I-C-C-H-I-O.

sartarelli-verdicchio-classico-2008-tralivio-balciana-2007Located nearby Poggio San Marcello in the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi appellation of Italy’s Marche, the Sartarelli estate – its vineyards planted exclusively to Verdicchio – is run by Donatella Sartarelli and Patrizio Chiacchiarini, with assistance from enologist Alberto Mazzoni.

Sartarelli doesn’t rely upon strategic marketing or advertising campaign to carve out its place in the wine market. Instead, Sartarelli has made its bones by providing high quality product and great value for money.

Preservation of the environment through sustainable farming techniques along with careful timing and attention to detail take on important roles at Sartarelli. Recognizing that high quality grape is fundamental to high quality wine, agricultural treatments are avoided wherever possible. Grapes are allowed to ripen slowly with differently timed harvests to ensure the correct degree of ripeness. And great care is taken to avoid violence and damage to fruit during harvest and the winemaking process.

Three Sartarelli wines below – Verdiccho Classico, Superiore Tralivio and Superiore Balciana – are made of 100% Verdicchio grown in calcareous soil at approximately 325m altitude. Vines producing the Classico and Tralivio are an average age of 15-16 years with south, east, and southwest exposures; vines producing Balciana average 10 years old with northeast exposure.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2008

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty straw-yellow color with faded emerald reflections and a round, delicate character showing pear, apricot, honey and almond with hints of ginger and lime. Sound structure, lively acid and a satisfying finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

FISH SEAFOOD: generally speaking, fish / seafood can’t miss with this wine, but especially consider baked stuffed shrimp or fried “fisherman’s platter”; WHITE MEATS: simply prepared white meats, such as breaded pan-fried chicken cutlets; PASTA: recommend ziti or bucatini with fresh sardine sauce or spaghetti with mussels; EGGS: frittate and omelette dishes; APPETIZERS: zucchini stuffed with bread crumbs, onion, tomato and parmesan, a savory vegetable pie, foccacia bread with olives, cold meats

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Tralivio 2007

Strength and structure provide the background for intoxicating orange blossom, apricot, mango, and honey. Mint and a lick of sea salt on a satisfying finish. Deliciously weighty on the palate, the wine shows warmth, poise and symmetry.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

FISH SEAFOOD: more ambitious preparations of fish or seafood such as bouillabaisse or mussels with poached eggs and cream sauce; MEATS: especially consider “cacciatora” prepared chicken, rabbit, or lamb; PASTA: do consider spaghetti with good caviar and cream; APPETIZERS: roasted red pepper rolled with tuna and olive stuffing; baked and stuffed mushroom caps; CHEESES: medium aged cheeses.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Balciana 2007

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

This exquisite single-vineyard Verdicchio harvested late in small yield is an absolutely luminous, amber color highlighted with impressionistic splashes of golden summer straw. Intense apricot, orange creamsicle, mint and herb. Rich on the palate and a long, pleasant finish with hints of bitter almond and honey. Spectacular.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

FISH / SEAFOOD: skillet crusted scallops with a spicy orange sauce, or almond crusted fish fillet; MEATS: mustard-roasted rabbit with herbs and tomatoes, or slow-cooked lamb shanks with anchovy fillets, tomatoes and carrots; PASTA: ziti with carmelized onions and portobello mushrooms or linguine with scallops and lemon butter sauce; APPETIZERS / SALADS: zucchini or bean salad with lemon, mint and pieces of parmesan cheese, or hot endive / escarole salad with bacon and hard boiled eggs.

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La Braccesca Bramasole Cortona Syrah 2003

La Braccesca Bramasole Cortona Syrah 2003, DOC

Old flannel shirts. Hands stained with drawing charcoal, pastels, shades of paint. The passion in her voice whenever she spoke of Degas.

But, that was all before life’s realities found us.

Now, I taste, spending a few moments in wine’s third dimension, memory, scents of innocent time with hints of longing, remembering that expressive artist I knew half a lifetime ago, reminded by the equally expressive character of La Braccesca’s Bramasole Cortona Syrah.

la-braccesca-bramasole-syrah-2003-1The La Braccesca estate is a property of Antinori with 238 hectares of vineyard laid out in two blocks around Italy’s Tuscany: 87 hectares in the area of Montepulciano, another 151 hectares stretching between there and the foothills of Cortona.

The foothills of Cortona have proven especially hospitable terroir to international varietals like Syrah.

La Braccesca Bramasole Cortona Syrah 2003 is made from 100% Syrah grown in medium clay soil at about 290m altitude. Grapes were soft pressed and given a longer-side maceration of 15 days. During 14 months in barrique (Allier & Troncois) the wine was racked several times, spending one additional year in bottle prior to release.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Deep ruby color. Ripe red and black berry aromas on the nose with hints of coffee, cocoa powder, vanilla and spice. Dense palate of rich, jammy fruit laced with chocolate and smooth, well integrated tannins. Firm structure and an elegant, persistent finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEAT: roasted red meat or game is a first choice – I’d recommend lamb or roast beef; PASTA: dressed in good olive oil, tossed with toasted bread crumbs and crumbled bacon; CHEESES: young-medium aged cheeses… I especially like this wine paired with softer French cheeses.

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone 2008
Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Berrò 2008

“The magic behind every outstanding performance is always found in the smallest of details.”
— Gary Ryan Blair

I was totally struck by the level of detail and attention given to the Pico Maccario estate symbol. To make the point, I offer you the following from Pico Maccario’s website:

The Rose of the Wines

Our symbol, created by Sergio Bianco, is made up of a shield and a rose, with the rose standing out in relief. The shield is an equilateral triangle with harmoniously curved sides to symbolize the bowl of the goblet. In history, the symbolic value of the rose comes from the myth of Adonis who was loved by Venus and from whose blood bloomed the first red roses. From this, the rose came to symbolize Love and Revival. In the myths of Dionisus, the God of wine, they used to wear crowns of roses because they believed that roses had the power to prevent the revealing of secrets when under the influence of alcohol. From this, the rose came to symbolize secrecy and roses were often used as decoration in confessionals (sub rosa: under the seal of silence in confession). In Christian symbology the red rose is the blood of Jesus which in the communion is symbolized by wine. pico-maccario-berro-2008Finally, the rose represents life and there is a tradition among viticulturalists that it is capable of revealing some illnesses of the vines. The shield is raised in the center with the name underneath so that it takes the shape of a goblet. The name Pico Maccario is written on two lines to maintain balance and symmetry. The font was chosen to symbolize the thorns of the rose. With the same love, the same passion, and the same care we create our wines.1

That kind of attention to detail – that is to say, the kind driven by passion and love – has resulted in some wonderful expressions of Barbera from Pico Maccario.

The Pico Maccario estate, well known as a specialist producer of Barbera, is located in Mombaruzzo, a commune of Italy’s Piedmont situated within the ASTI DOCG. The estate – some 70 contiguous hectares (the largest solely owned vineyard in Piedmont) – is run by Maccario brothers Pico and Vitaliano, with Pico handling production of the wines and Vitaliano attending to commercial matters. The estate has invested in modern, state-of-the-art technology to assure quality in all phases of production, a quality process which it believes begins in the vineyard with best practice cultivation techniques.pico-maccario-lavignone-2008

The estate’s Barbera d’Asti Lavignone and Barbera d’Asti Berrò are made from 100% Barbera grapes grown in clay soil at approximately 180 meters altitude. After light crushing of the grapes, Lavignone is macerated for 10-12 days and refined in steel vats for 9 months with many decantings followed by additional refinement in bottle, while Berrò is macerated for 8 days, refined in steel vats for 7 months with an additional 5 months of refinement in bottle.

Barbera d’Asti Lavignone 2008
Tasting Notes / Impressions:

An elegant combination of cherry and almond on the nose gives way to rich, round plum and ripe berry fruit flavors. Almost pinot noir-like in body with gorgeously svelte, silky tannins. Satisfying finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
Risotto, pasta, poultry, grilled fish, medium aged cheeses

Barbera d’Asti Berrò 2008
Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Plenty of fresh, clean berry fruit scents, hints of plum on the palate and smooth, user friendly tannins. Immensely drinkable.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
Casual dishes, burgers, chicken, soups, deli, fresh cheeses

BTW…Would you be surprised to know that there are 4,500 unique-clone rose bushes at Pico Maccario and one is positioned in front of every row of the estate’s 315,000 vines?

Well…..there are ! Details, details 😉

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1, from Pico Maccario website, www.picomaccario.com

Verdicchio Meets Chun Juan

No, it’s not an Italian–Chinese love story. Well, not exactly 😉

Chinese chun juan or spring rolls – thin dough skins spread with finely minced vegetables, meat, shrimp or oysters and rolled into, well…a roll…evoke an emotional response of home and family for my Chinese wife. Since her parents are currently visiting us, a special request for home town chun juan was speedily attended.

Now, you may think all chun juan are the same…nein! Like pasta in Italy, local interpretation is the rule with chun juan and they can be served either fresh or fried. My in-law’s version is from their local area in southeast China and is known thereabouts as bou bian.

egg-roll-1aLike the Earl of Sandwich who first placed meat between two slices of bread when too busy to eat otherwise, it was an ambitious Chinese too busy with study to eat a proper meal who needed convenient and fast food: vegetables and whatever else was available were rolled up in a thin dough wrapper and, voilà, chun juan!

The fresh wrappers for rolling chun juan are best purchased at your local Asian grocery as there is no good way to make them at home. Finely shredded vegetables – cabbage, carrots, bamboo shoots, leeks, snow peas, water chestnuts – are heated in a large pot with some oil and cooked until sauté tender. Finely minced pork, tofu and / or shrimp or oysters are cooked and then combined with vegetables, all mixed well, and salted to taste.

egg-roll-3ajpgThe fun part: a fresh spring roll wrapper is spread out on a plate with some of the vegetable / meat mixture placed in the middle. A pinch or two of each of your preferred condiments is added. Recommended, but optional condiments include chopped fresh parsley, very finely shredded seaweed, sweet peanut crumb, hot sauce. The wrapper sides are folded in just a bit toward the middle, then, rolled from the bottom up, forming a shape reminiscent of a sandwich wrap or egg roll.

TIP: To avoid tearing, don’t allow any juices that may have collected in the vegetable / meat mixture’s bowl onto the wrapper.

Thank you for your attention to this point; I haven’t forgotten about the Verdicchio.

Verdicchio’s clean, bright, fragrant character and lively acidity create a wildly attractive pairing to the fresh and subtlely-exotic texture and flavors of chun juan. And its full body, dryness and good structure are well suited to the delicate, but savory nature of chuan juan’s fundamental ingredients. We chose a delicious and inexpensive Verdicchio Classico from the Castelli di Jesi zone in Italy’s Marche, made by producer Sartarelli, which worked blissfully well.

Verdicchio and chun juan: Enticing. Even romantic. Different. Just plain good.

If you have some time on your hands, more time than had the Earl of Sandwich, make fresh spring rolls at home. Otherwise, order them at the restaurant or do a take-out. Pick up a bottle of good Verdicchio. Get in the mood for a love story…well, kind of 😉

Featured Producer: Azienda Agricola Edi Kante

Azienda Agricola Edi Kante Vitovska 2006
Azienda Agricola Edi Kante Malvasia 2006
Azienda Agricola Edi Kante KK Spumante Brut NV

Close your eyes and imagine a windswept, limestone plateau, a place of natural caves and grottos where the stone can feel alive. At this great table of rock, Veneto, Slavic, and German-Austrian traditions come together to form a wonderfully compatible wine and food culture where wines of a deeply local character stand up to some very hearty fare.

Welcome to the Carso area of Friuli.

What kind of guy is Edi Kante? Well…the kind that chiseled subterranean wine cellars from a natural cavity in the limestone near Prepotto. Unconventional and motivated seem appropriate adjectives here. And I don’t know how true it is – I haven’t met him – I’m passing it as anecdote suggests: he is an incredibly nice guy, too.

The six hectare Kante estate faces the Gulf of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea from steep hills where limestone rich soil and cooling winds create an oscillating heat / cooling microclimate that gives Kante’s wines especially unique personality and aromatics.

kante-vitovska-1Edi Kante Vitovska 2006

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Think: the sound of a cello served with a light sprinkling of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Get the picture? Citrus and floral on the nose, this wine has an absolutely mouthwatering mineral acidity that plays brilliantly against a palate background reverberating with sonorous, deep-toned richness. Made from the Slavic origin Vitovska varietal. Encore length finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Fresh seafood is primary here, especially shell fish: consider crab stuffed mushrooms, sushi / sashimi, or grilled calamari; Pasta with lobster in a light cream sauce; Seafood risotto

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Edi Kante Malvasia 2006kante-malvasia-1

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Scents of mandarin oranges infuse an intriguing palate of apricot, honey, hints of toasted almond and saline. A polished, buttery mouthfeel dissolves into a focused finish of remarkable depth. Made from the local Malvasia clone (Istriana).

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Fresh seafood, consider fatty tuna sushi or sashimi; Quiche, cheese tarts; Pork Schnitzel with mushroom sauce; Ham; Smoked cheeses

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kante-kkEdi Kante KK Spumante Brut NV

The base for this classicly produced sparkling wine is comprised of Chardonnay (80%) and Malvasia (20%). The wine does refinement duty via 12 months barrique and 6 months steel.

Tasting Notes:

I found the Edi Kante “KK” Spumante Brut NV a tailored, beautifully etched wine. Very dry, with a great minerality and acid backbone. Notes of bread crust, apricots, honey, and toasted almonds, a remarkable balance of acid, alcohol, and fruit.

Food pairing suggestions: Seafood (I enjoyed it with seafood risotto, braised belgian endive, and grilled haddock), prosciutto di San Daniele, hearty soups, pasta / gnocchi with butter & cheese, spaezle, potatoe & veal dishes

Importer: Villiage Wine Imports LTD New York, New York

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*originally posted Feb.23rd 2009 featuring only Edi Kante Brut KK, the post was updated to inlcude tasting notes / impressions and food pairings for Edi Kante’s Vitovska 2006 and Malvasia 2006.