La Valentina Cerasuolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009

La Valentina Cerasuolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009, DOC

After four hours of yard work the electric shrub trimmer, telescopic saw and tree pruner had become temporary extensions of my physical anatomy.

I reflected upon the plight of Edward Scissorhands.

Sweat and dirt combined with copious amounts of SPF 50 sunblock to trickle impressive rivers of funky mud down along my arms.

In a primal voice I called out to weeds, bushes, trees, and wife:

“That’s it…enough”.

la-valentina-cerasuolo-montepulciano-dabruzzo-2009Major refreshment required: a cool shower…pizza from a local legend…and a bottle of chilled Cerasuolo that reminded me of how wine things are looking up in Abruzzo.

Fattoria La Valentina is a leader among a group of producers responsible for some top quality bottlings of Abruzzo’s indigenous Montepulciano d’Abruzzo varietal.

Established in 1990, the estate, owned by Sabatino Di Properzio and located in the hills around Pescara, follows a naturalist production philosophy that approaches Hippocratic oath:

We interfere as little as possible in the land’s natural processes, adhering to the idea that “The premise for the DOC is the mark the vine leaves on its grapes”. Our wines are made by nature and our work should not inhibit the expression of the vine. We seek to respect the fruit of our land both on the vine and in the bottle, and to practice winemaking that allows for the fullest expression of our region’s special qualities.*

La Valentina’s Cerasuolo is a rosè made from 25 – 35 year old vines belonging to 30 hectares of vineyards around Spoltore. Vinyards lie at 150 – 350m altitude with south – southwest exposure, planted in medium textured clay soil.

Multiple grape selections are carried out during harvest time and just 18 hours of skin is allowed. A bleeding of the must and light fermentation is carried out in stainless steel where it remains, refining until bottling.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Simply beautiful water-color rose with faded raspberry reflections. Superbly clean, intense aromatics of cherries and strawberries on the nose. Watermelon on the palate. Finishes with luscious berry essence, hints of tobacco, almond, anise. A lively, fresh, and immensely refreshing wine at a value for money price point.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: burgers, spareribs, barbecued meats, etc; chicken or veal “alla cacciatore”; FISH: bouillabaisse; seafood paella; tuna steaks cooked with capers, black olives, red onion, roma tomatoes; grilled salmon served with aioli mayonnaise; PASTA: spaghetti “alla puttanesca”; penne with eggplant and sweet peppers; VEGETARIAN: a hearty Panzanella or Nicoise salad; Eggplant Provencal; or the penne pasta with eggplant and sweet peppers, or spaghetti “alla puttanesca”; CHEESES: recommend Chevre, Feta, or Spanish Mahon

* From La Valentina website


Castello di Monastero Chianti Classico 2006

Castello di Monastero Chianti Classico 2006, DOCG

Permit me to meander with a brief anecdote in order to make a point before getting to our business of Castello di Monastero Chianti Classico:

A man walks along a country road and comes upon a general store. Hot and thirsty, he prepares to go inside to buy a cool drink. He notices the storekeeper, a real old-timer, sitting in a chair on the store’s porch, a dog sleeping quietly by the storekeeper’s side.

Man Walking: Hey Mister, does your dog bite?

Storekeeper: No, he don’t.

Man Walking: Are ya sure?

Storekeeper: Yep, my dog never bit anyone.

The man walks up the steps and onto the porch when suddenly the dog jumps up and bites him viciously.

Man Walking: Damn it, Mister, I thought you said your dog don’t bite!!!!

Storekeeper: He don’t… that’s not my dog!


The importance of asking the right question cannot be over emphasized, yeah ? 😉

A traditional or modern Chianti Classico? Wrong question, I assure you. Please read on.

OK: I promised we’d get straight to it:

The estate of Castello di Monastero, a property of Lionello Marchesi, produces its Chianti Classico from vineyards at Radda in Chianti. Approximately 12 hectares of vineyards are planted primarily to Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Vineyards are to be found at approximately 400m altitude with soil that shows more shale than is found at the estate’s Castelnuovo Berardenga site where the company sources its Chianti Superiore.

Castello di Monastero Chianti Classico 2006 is a blend of 85% Sangiovese grapes and 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is refined for 12 months in small oak barrels and for 6 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

While the debate about modern / international vs traditional styles of Chianti Classico swirls on, this Chianti Classico goes about its business with nothing but good taste and style. An impressive nose redolent of wild berry and cherry fruit with hints of roses, mint, cocoa and spices opened up beautifully across 60 minutes during dinner. The wine evokes impressions of big body and intensity while keeping its feet on the ground with a distinct sense of lightness. Oak, sure, but with total control of the volume knob and really dialed in for superb balance with other components. Velvetly tannins and a nicely polished finish.

Don’t let the politics interfere with enjoying good wine ;-).

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: grilled or roasted pork, beef or chicken; PASTA: short, wider pasta shapes with ground meat ragu; RICE / POLENTA: sausage risotto or soft polenta served with sausage ragu; CURED MEATS / CHEESES: especially salami or herbed salami; loved this wine paired Fiore di Sardegna cheese, also try younger Pecorino; VEGETARIAN: pappardelle with caramelized vegetable ragu seasoned with mint and grated pecorino; orzo stuffed Portobello mushroom caps with minced shallot, red pepper, drizzled with olive oil.

This is a great wine to pair with mildly spiced Indian dishes.

I enjoyed this wine with roast pork loin with rosemary and garlic; escalloped ricotta potatoes; fried squash blossoms; salad; Fiore di Sardegna cheese.


The Scent of Memory

Wine-snob-i-tis (wīn-snŏb -ī’tĭs) noun An infection spread through unprotected conversation with the enologically overbearing 🙂

And, man, its spreading like peanut butter right now.

In a desperate act of self-protection, I scan the room for a sign that reads EXIT.

scent-and-memoryYou get it, right? I am somewhere I don’t want to be, knee deep in the pretentious wine talk of …uhmmm… experts of wine (perhaps) and condescension (for sure).

I shall say no more…because I prefer to move in the positive, because I am able to introduce the topic to you now, on my own terms:

To begin, I suggest you entrust yourself to a brief and interesting article from science journalist Anjana Ahuja, published in The Sunday Times*, on the fascinating subject matter that is smell and memory:

The news that elephants use their sense of smell to prompt memories – females can locate up to 30 herd members simply by sniffing urine patches, and are bewildered when confronted with the urine of calves that they thought were moving behind them – should not surprise us. Smell is linked intimately to remembering. Who has not been haunted by the signature scent of a lost love, or been transported back to childhood with the whiff of Farley’s Rusks?

Anatomy can explain this. Our sense of smell is anchored in the primary olfactory cortex. This part of the brain is yoked to both the hippocampus, which processes memory, and the amygdala, which regulates emotions. This means that aromas that prod the memory also trigger an emotional accompaniment. So we perceive memories triggered by smell as more intense than those provoked by sight or sound.

Studies, including several at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, have shown that odours can be useful memory aids. People who are asked to learn in the presence of a distinctive smell, such as violet leaf, show impressive powers of recall when the scent is recreated; they perform better than people whose learning and recall is done in the absence of odour.

End of article. Thank you, Anjana.

OK: now, this is what I wanted to get to: it seems to me that wine’s scents are, above all else, a celebration of memory and emotion, of soul. The fragrances of wine have grander purpose than to serve as criterion for judgement or scoring. Wine’s perfume represents elements of the Real and the Surreal. I encourage you to explore both perspectives.

Identifying wine’s aromatic indicators…cherry, tobacco, citrus, spice, and so on, is important, if not great fun. To do so will help you better appreciate grape varietals, terroir, aspects of winemaking, etc. If you are just getting started at this, I recommend using a good Tasting Sheet as a guide, one that provides articulate tasting vocabulary for both reds and whites, to help you along. (If you can’t find suitable Tasting Sheets, feel free to contact me and I will send them to you).

Now, let’s reorganize a bit: forget the tasting sheet. Throw away the usual tasting roadmaps. Prepare for travel. Allow wine’s scents to take you wandering, drifting, connecting enigmatic, evocative, undetermined dimensions of memory and emotion. A childhood walk in the autumn forest; your grandfather’s old hat; the scent of first love’s skin. It’s a very intimate meditation. I recommend to prepare an appropriate environment, calm, free of distractions.

Point made. Contagion avoided. 🙂

*The Intimate Link Between Smell and Memory, by Anjana Ahuja, published December 6, 2007, The Sunday Times

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2008

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2008

Seats in the upright position, please.

Buckle safety belts low around your waist.

Taxi to runway for take-off.

And then…the incredible lightness of flight.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2008 is so about lightness of being that you may need a boarding pass to experience it 😉

tenuta-delle-terre-nere-etna-rosso-2008The estate of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, owned by Marc de Grazie [ yes, the US fine wine importer ] and located on the north side of Sicily’s Mount Etna, represents an area of Sicily set to redefine the thinking of anyone who believes that words like complex and finesse are incongruous with Sicilian wines.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere makes its Etna Rosso from Nerello Mascalese (98%) and Nerello Cappuccio, varietals capable of producing wines with the airy, ethereal, complex characteristics we associate with Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.

Grapes are grown in volcanic soil at high altitudes (650-900 meters or so) where wide differences in night / day temperatures encourage elegant character and perfume.

Vineyards are farmed organically in an environment naturally low in pests. Vinification is carried out in steel followed by 6 months aging in steel and wood.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty ruby color and a perfume of red berries, flowers, spices and a hint of balsam that glides above an effortlessly elegant palate seemingly unrestrained by gravity. Good structure and sturdy tannins give great definition and foundation.

Wine lovers who admire the wines of Burgundy or Italy’s Langhe will appreciate this wine.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: red and white meats, grilled or roasted, especially lamb, veal, chicken or turkey; if you are a fan of Asian food, do not miss pairing this wine with Beijing duck served with Mandarin pancakes brushed with hoisin sauce; VEGETARIAN: vegetarian lasagna; baked squash casserole topped with toasted bread crumbs and Gruyere cheese; INDIAN: try this wine with mildly spiced mixed tandoori grill or a roganjosh dish; CHEESES: medium aged cheeses.