Featured Producer: Sportoletti


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-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”.



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.


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 😉

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006, $

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.