The Art Wines of Cascina Carpini

The Art Wines of Cascina Carpini

Note: Cascina Carpini Chiaror Sul Masso was provided as a sample to members of the Timorasso Sparkling Tasting Panel. Other Cascina Carpini wines mentioned below were also provided as tasting samples. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

This is a post about many things: courage, tenacity, creativity, passion, continuous improvement and, of course, wine.

But, more on all that as we go.

For now, allow me to point out something which I learned long ago: individuals who possess all of those traits mentioned above are very often driven, intensely creative people.

In other words, Artists.

That’s a good place to begin our discussion, I think – the artist:

cascina-carpini-paolo-ghislandiMeet Paolo Carlo Ghislandi of Cascina Carpini, wine producer and creative force behind that estate’s collection of “vini d’arte” or art wines. Paolo acquired Cascina Carpini, located in the Tortona Hills of Italy’s Piedmont, back around 2000 and has pursued a vision of wine that includes some important words and ideas – I’ve selected a few of them from Paolo’s writings:

Soul. Imagination. Body. Life. Natural. Feelings. Emotions. Tradition. Silence. Spirit. Art.

In a wine world that seems to place high value upon objectivity about wine, those words are ones of courage and passion. They are words reflecting a cerebral, aesthetic side of wine capable of expressing beauty, evoking emotion and stirring personal reflection.

AKA: Words of Art.

Beginning with words like those above, Ghislandi makes good effort to provide us with rich context for sharing his conception of wine: he bestows upon his wines names like Brezza d’Estate and Bruma d’Autunno, meaning Summer Breeze and Autumn Mist, respectively; bottles are elegantly adorned with uniquely artistic labels and literature verse giving clues about the spirit and mood of each wine; and Ghislandi’s transparency on the social Internet gives us additional visibility into the wine production cycle, harvest etc., and perhaps as importantly, Ghislandi the producer, the artist, shares something of himself.

That effort…is important. It is vital. Because context, in both art and wine, Matters. Listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, knowing that it is a collection of musical compositions about the natural world, gives the music deeper meaning. I better appreciate its structure and subtleties. I am closer to the composer’s intentions, to what he was thinking. Ghislandi seems to understand this phenom.

The Rare Timorasso

Timorasso, once widely cultivated in Piedmont, suffered when many Timorasso vineyards were replanted with other varietals during post-phylloxera times. A handful of determined Piemontese producers passionate about Timorasso’s potential have continued to work and improve the varietal in the area of Colli Tortonesi and, hopefully, sparking a broader revival.

I believe Cascina Carpini is already making a great contribution to the rediscovery and appreciation of Timorasso, bringing it to the attention of a wider audience with two incredibly interesting wines:

cascina-carpini-chiaror-sul-massoChiaror Sul Masso & the Timorasso Sparkling Tasting Panel (TSTP)

Inspired by his Brezza d’Estate, a still wine made from Timorasso, Paolo was intrigued by the idea of producing a sparkling Timorasso. Following his creative intuition, Paolo bottled the sparkling Timorasso using grapes from the 2008 harvest. Providing 50 bottles for tasting samples, he launched the Timorasso Sparkling Tasting Panel (TSTP) via the social Internet, an initiative inviting comparisons, comments, suggestions, feedback, etc., about the wine, a panel in which I have participated:

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A pale straw yellow color, the wine, when first poured, showed some yeast aromas, most of which blew off in 10-15 minutes time. The nose surrendered delicate, interesting suggestions of stone fruit, apple, pineapple. Some yeast transferred to the palate, distracting a bit from more subtle flavors of bread crust, tart apple and saline. Fine effervescence gave good attack in the mouth. Over time, green apple emerged, accompanied by recollections of cream and honey, all underscored by vibrantly crisp, clean minerality. A nutty, pleasant bitterness on the finish.

Chiaror Sul Masso is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method, with fermentation carried out at controlled temperature in stainless steel and undergoing a re-fermentation in autoclave.

In the spirit of feedback, as a participant in the TSTP, I think that Chiaror Sul Masso debuts as an incredibly promising “version 1” wine, a sleeping giant. With refinement of the yeast tone/s, the wine’s delicate and subtle beauties will be perceived with even greater clarity… and the giant will awake. I look very much forward to tasting version 2 of this visionary wine.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

With regard to food pairing, the wine’s amazing balance of dryness / sugar allows for interesting flexibility at table: I enjoyed it with spaghetti and anchovy, and I would appreciate it with lobster risotto, mussels and frites, or paired with stir-fried Asian dishes of white meat, tofu, and / or vegetables. It would be stunning with delicate trout fillets and sliced almonds. Yet, the wine was also great and delicious company to dry apple cake and cookies !

I had the pleasure of tasting 5 other wonderful wines from Cascina Carpini, under normal tasting circumstances, ie, not associated with the TSTP:

cascina-carpini-brezza-destate-2008Brezza d’Estate 2008

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A luminescent, pretty color of summer straw. On the nose, a complex collage of aromatics: apricot, plum, fig, almond, hazelnut, savory florals and herbs. Seductively viscous and full bodied on the palate, flavors of peach, apple, and honey orbit around a brilliant counterpoint of creaminess and stoney minerality. The wine easily keeps its 14% alcohol in balance, impressively well structured. Spectacular, long finish, that echoes of horehound accented with citrus.

Brezza d’Estate is produced from 100% hand harvested, slightly overripe Timorasso grapes. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel followed by a course of bottle ageing.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

FISH: try your favorite fish fillets with black olives and anchovy sauce; bouillabaisse; artichokes stuffed with slivers of ham and black olives; mussels with garlic, parsley, melted butter; scallops in creamy saffron sauce; elegant seafood terrine; APPETIZERS: hot bacon and egg salad served on escarole or endive; crudités with garlic-caper mayonnaise; omelet with oysters and cubed ham; MEATS: whole chicken roasted with carrots, onions and thyme; pan-fried chicken, pork or veal with herbs de Provence; PASTA: lasagne with zucchini and tarragon bechamel; linguine with peppers and oregano; spaghetti with tuna; VEGETARIAN: warm goat cheese tart with carmelized onions; roasted beet & green bean salad with walnut vinaigrette; braised tempeh and vegetables served with lemon-coconut sauce; swiss chard and potatoe pie; CHEESES: this wine was super delicious paired with French Morbier cheese; also try herbed cheeses, perhaps an herbed goat cheese.

cascina-carpini-rugiada-del-mattino-2008Rugiada del Mattino 2008

Tasting Notes:

Golden straw yellow with peach, persimmon, hay, flowers and minerals on the nose. A honey lined palate brings lip smacking flavors of peach jam, mountain herb and golden raisin. Very clean in the mouth with distant notes of citrus and stoney minerality. A long, persistent finish.

Rugiada del Mattino is produced from late harvest Favorita and Cortese with other allowable varietals. Aged in stainless steel.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: sliced chicken or turkey served with lemon, parsley and caper sauce; FISH: tripe or mussel soup; stuffed escargot; baked fish with tapenade, bread crumbs and tomato; baked fish with sliced potato, garlic, olive oil or cream; PASTA: farfalle with cubes of ham, pine nuts and torn basil; penne with goat cheese and fresh chives; EGGS: omelette with escargot, ham and walnuts; ; asparagus omelette; VEGETARIAN: Goat cheese quiche served with cabbage and walnut salad; eggplant halves stuffed with bread crumbs, dried herbs, anchovy; vegetable gratins; marinated, grilled mushroom caps slathered with basil pesto; tart or pizza with goat cheese, carmelized onions and nicoise olives.

cascina-carpini-sette-zolle-2007Sette Zolle 2007

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Gemstone ruby color with crimson-orange highlights. Massively clean mixed berry fruits on the nose, hints of cardamom. Mouth-watering tart raspberry dominates on a bright palate alive with good acidity and hints of conifer. Medium body, good density and structure. Finishes with good flavor and length.

Sette Zolle is produced from Barbera (85%) with smaller percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Croatina. Fermented in stainless steel followed by several months of bottle ageing.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: mixed boiled meats served with onion sauce; veal scallopine with green olives and mushrooms; pork cutlets with served tapenade sauce; roast chicken wrapped with bacon and anchovy; PASTA: rigatoni or similar served with ragu of minced meat, mushroom, or tripe; VEGETARIAN: pizza with carmelized onions and gorgonzola; pastry pie of swiss chard, roasted peppers, emmentaler cheese.

cascina-carpini-falo-dottobre-2006Falò d’Ottobre 2006

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Ruby color saturated with blueberry and orange highlights. Gorgeous aromatics of bramble, dried flowers and spice. Warmer in the mouth than Sette Zolle with rich, intense flavors of tart berry fruit, hints of cocoa, black pepper, and well-controlled vanilla. Good structure, acidity, and appealing tannins. A complex, memorable finish.

Falò d’Ottobre is produced from Barbera (85%) with smaller percentages of Freisa and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in French oak 7-8 months followed by additional ageing in bottle.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: braised short ribs; veal stew with mushrooms; pork sausages served with hot roasted chestnuts; rabbit with mustard sauce or with black olives and thyme; PASTA: penne with lamb or sausage ragu; baked pasta stuffed with cheese served with minced meat ragu; VEGETARIAN: tempeh and mushroom fricassee; risotto with root vegetables; soft polenta with white bean ragu.

cascina-carpini-bruma-dautunno-2005Bruma d’Autunno 2005

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Dense garnet color with overlapping orange hues. Expressive scents of berry jam, plum, forest floor, leather, tobacco and spice transfer to an emollient, sensual palate showing hints of milk chocolate, vanilla, pine, and pepper. Round flavors and broad structure, finishing with satisfying inner mouth aromas of raisin and fruit cake.

Bruma d’Autunno is produced from 100% Barbera. Fermented in stainless steel, aged for 14 months in French oak followed by an additional 12 months of bottle ageing.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: sautéed duck breast with cherries; liver pate; roast beef or veal served with juniper berry and mushroom sauce; veal wrapped with bacon and roasted with carrots & onions; lamb chops served with anchovy, garlic and tomato sauce; PASTA: baked pasta stuffed with cheese served with minced meat ragu; rigatoni with lamb ragu; VEGETARIAN: baked polenta served with melted fontina sauce or mushroom ragu; rigatoni with cauliflower, walnuts, and raisins.

Find out more about the Cascina Carpini’s Timorasso Sparkling Tasting Panel initiative on VINIX at http://www.vinix.it/myDocDetail.php?ID=4474

To learn more about the art wines of Cascina Carpini, please navigate to www.cascinacarpini.it or http://www.facebook.com/cascinacarpini

Quietly, Behind the Scenes

vineyard-maintenance-linklift-brindisiWe uncork. We pour. We enjoy. We praise the earth, the sun, the tradition, the wine producer, each for their good work. Less often, though, do we raise our glasses in appreciation of the many supportive tasks performed by winery staff and required to produce a good bottle of wine.

I thought it might be fun and perhaps instructive to take a moment to celebrate some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on during the wine producing year:

For example, there is the cellar work we call racking, an ancient term for the process of separating the clear wine from the sediment or lees, with its assortment of drain hoses and holding tanks. This labor intensive program assists with clarification and also benefits red wines with aeration. Cheers to the racking team !

To the good hands that attend those ubiquitous barrels used in the production of wine, we must raise our voices in thankful song. The barrels demand a busy regimen of cleaning and maintenance activities lest mold and bacteria grow to fill our glasses with inferior grape juice.

Pruning, that is removing away unwanted vine canes during winter months, requires a studied eye and steady hand. Pruning regulates the next year’s yield by controlling the amount of buds allowed and is important to the vine grower establishing a “training” system for the vines, shaping them into the desired growing form. Accolades and acclamations a plenty!

And did you ever see those handsome, neatly weeded spaces in between vineyard rows? Yep, someone needs to attend to that. Applause !

Loud cheering and recognition to all who participate in the repair and maintenance services for mechanical equipment involved in wine production: tractors, bottling machines, pumps, tanks, roto-fermentors, crushers, and more, for fear that production comes to a standstill.

A round of thundering virtual applause, then, for the work that goes on behind the scenes of wine, and for the people who do it, without which our wine would be less than what it is, or perhaps not at all. Bravoooooo !!!!!!!!!!!!!

* THANKS to Paolo Ghislandi, Cascina Carpini, for permission to use the photo.

Scarbolo: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Grigio Ramato, Merlot

Scarbolo Pinot Grigio 2008
Scarbolo Pinot Grigio Ramato 2007
Scarbolo Merlot 2007

I consult my wrist watch: just enough time. Car keys in hand, I head out the door and exercise the Audi along a stretch of highway connecting me to the location where Valter Scarbolo is visiting in town.

During the time I could chat and taste with Valter, I discovered that, in addition to being a successful producer of Friulian wines and proprietor of a well known restaurant, Valter is a very neighborly sort of personality, a really nice guy, whose wines reflect equal home-spun charm.

Scarbolo harvests grapes by hand from vines grown in the terrain’s dark-red clay soil containing alluvial deposits and minerals. A breezy microclimate alternating cool (east) and warm (south) helps grapes to ripen slowly, balancing aroma and flavor. Thoughtful techniques in the vineyard and cellar – dense planting, low yields, careful vinification and ageing – are applied to preserve varietal character.

scarbolo-pinot-grigio-2008Scarbolo Pinot Grigio 2008

100% Pinot Grigio. 60% of the whole clusters are soft pressed immediately after harvesting. The remaining fruit is de-stemmed and left on the skins for a 24 hour cold maceration before pressing. Fermentation is carried out in controlled temperature stainless steel. The wine is aged on the lees in stainless steel for 6 months with frequent stirrings.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Straw yellow color with cinnamon highlights. On the nose, scents of apples, ginger, flowers, and minerals. Flavors of apricot, honey and bread crust on the palate. Finishes with a trace of mint. A well structured, table friendly wine.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: pan-fried chicken, veal or pork cutlets with mushroom cream sauce; chicken sausages served with risotto or polenta; FISH: try cold salmon lox, capers, and slivered parsly served with buttered toast points; a great wine for sushi / maki, especially try with tuna; warm salmon with leek sauce; broiled scallops with crème fraiche and Belgian endive; classic mussels and frites; PASTA: tagliatelle or gnocchi with speck in saffron cream sauce; SOUPS: hearty soups like escarole and bean; VEGETARIAN: farfalle with walnut pesto and lemon zest; spinach and mushroom quiche; potato pancakes ! CHEESES: young cheeses
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scarbolo-ramato-2007Scarbolo Pinot Grigio Ramato 2007

This single vineyard Pinto Grigio is produced from 100% varietal of Scarbolo’s Mattia site, hand selected during three separate harvests. 50% of the fruit is de-stemmed and left with the skins for 4 days at controlled temperature and then separated from skins, half completing fermentation in oak tonneaux, half in stainless steel tanks. The other 50% of fruit sees a brief cold maceration and is then transferred to stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Aged on the lees in stainless steel and oak tonneaux for 14 months with frequent stirrings, and an additional 6 months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

An absolutely gorgeous color of pale chestnut that seems illuminated by moonlight from within. On the nose, scents of stone fruits, mountain herb and cut grass. Purity of fruit, good weight and a creamy mouthfeel. Hints of ginger, almond, and spice on the finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: roasted turkey or chicken; veal cutlet with tuna sauce; breaded pork cutlets with butter and sage; pan-fried Polish kielbasa; FISH: grilled tuna with carmelized onions; scallops with orange fig sauce; loved this wine with roasted eel maki cut rolls; cod fish steaks; EGGS: scrambled eggs with diced speck; PASTA: whole wheat rigatoni with walnut pesto; spaghetti with pesto and bread crumbs; Polish-style Pierogi dumplings filled with meat, cheese or potato; VEGETARIAN: Penne with asparagus tips, pine nuts and mascarpone cream sauce; pumpkin risotto; Cheeses: young cheeses; runny, less pungent French cheeses
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scarbolo-merlot-2007Scarbolo Merlot 2008

100% Merlot grown in vineyards just 2km from the winery. Fermentation is carried out in small French barriques with 3-4 manual punchdowns of the cap/s per day to extract color and sweet tannins. The wine is aged in small French barriques for 10 months followed by an additional 8 months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Deep ruby color with streaks of blueberry. Berry pie, herb, baker’s chocolate on the nose, transferring well to the palate, finishing with enjoyably balanced sweet tannins and spice.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: a winner with roasted meats, consider roasted beef or veal; veal fricassee with mushrooms and vegetables; do try this wine with Beijing duck if you have the chance; rabbit simmered in mustard sauce; classic steak and frites; hearty meat stews; braised short ribs, and if you’re up for a unique pairing, try this wine with the Korean short ribs called “kalbi”; PASTA: rich oven- baked pasta like lasagne, try alternating layers of red and béchamel sauces; penne with mushrooms and sausages; rigatoni with shredded duck meat; stuffed pasta such as manicotti or ravioli; VEGETARIAN: seitan “bourguignon”; baked tempeh with mushrooms and garlic; CHEESES: medium aged cheeses
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Italo Pietrantonj Pecorino 2008

Italo Pietrantonj Pecorino 2008

Sunday, Unstructured

There are few things in my life which resist change as much as our tradition of Sunday dinner with extended family. But, today is an exception.

I am unprepared for the anomaly of Sunday without pasta, long-simmered red sauce, slow-roasted meats, of many faces at table.

Let us strategize a recovery: something to eat … easy, fast and good. Speak comfort to me, friend. OK: spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and anchovy.

And the wine, then: one to fill the void, to overcome this dreary day….

pietrantonj-pecorino-2008AND SO IT WAS that Italo Pietrantonj Pecorino 2008, a wine from one of the oldest wineries in Abruzzo, found its way to an unusual Sunday table, transforming a simple meal and raising spirits with its elegant good taste and personality.

Made from 100% varietal Pecorino grown in medium-texture clay soil at approximately 340m altitude, fermented in stainless steel, this interesting, complex white from Pietrantonj shows incredible value for money.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Straw yellow with emerald highlights. An elegant, delicate perfume of banana, pear, citrus, flowers. Expressive and vibrant in the mouth, the wine conjures flavors of grapefruit, green tea and a hint of cinnamon on a creamy palate underscored with fresh, balanced acidity. Finishes with licks of sea salt, almond, and herb. An exceptionally good food wine.

Note: Serve chilled, though slightly warmer than most whites.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Fish / Seafood: Mahi mahi, Tuna, or Swordfish, recommend Tuna steaks with nicoise olives, capers in a light red sauce; Meats: cooked white meats and cured meats such as prosciutto and salami; Soups; hearty soups, recommend Pasta e Fagioli with pepper flakes or Boulliabiasse; Pasta; spicy pasta dishes such as the classic “Puttanesca”; Vegetarian: salad of potato, beet, endive, and walnuts; cold sesame noodles served with sliced radish and cucumber; rigatoni pasta with cauliflower, garlic, olives, pine nuts and raisins.

Asian food fans: try this wine with Japanese hand cut rolls of spicy crab; Chinese Ma Po Tofu; “rice bowl” dishes flavored with salty fish or vegetable.

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