A great master of the martial arts once said to me: “The athletically gifted martial artist who does not try hard is not impressive. It is the one who, with less to work with, still performs well, that is truly the gifted one.”
With just two hectares of difficult, steep hillside vineyards and an uncompromising pursuit of quality, that Claudio Vio can deliver a wine like Vio Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente, in my mind, establishes him as one of Italy’s most gifted, if not heroic, wine producers.
From Liguria in Italy’s northwest, Vio Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente is produced of 100% Pigato hand-harvested from shale and slate soil at about 300 meters altitude (the highest altitude Pigato produced, according to importer Portovino) located approximately 12km from the sea. Native yeasts. Maceration on skins carried out for 24-36 hours. Vinified in steel tank. One year in bottle before release.
Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Showing nothing of young, nervy character, this bottle has settled into an absolutely stunning state. Rich, golden color, perfumed of stone fruit, honey, sage, and minerals. Full bodied in the mouth, soft and slightly viscous, with good transfer of stone fruit flavors, citrus, herb, saline, hints of bitter almond on the finish. Spectacular.
Food Pairing Suggestions:
I have to tell you: the wine was insanely good with the grilled scallops shown at left: first pairing reco is seafood for sure, shrimp or scallop risotto would be super. Also suggest baked peppers stuffed with rice and ground meat. The wine’s herb notes will play especially well with pasta, rice salad or vegetable dishes featuring green herbs, say, basil pesto and / or black olives. Cappellini simply dressed with a bit of garlic, olive oil and anchovy will resonate with the wine’s salinity. Would love to try this wine with a good Ligurian fish stew! Complex salads. Delicate chicken dishes.
A Visit to Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery
It was back in April that I arranged to visit the Coppola estates of Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. I’d expected to report on the trip somewhat earlier though, frankly, it has taken me all of the intervening time to process the experience, to think my way through it.
The narrative around the respective estates and wines is deep in its breadth and detail. I won’t spoil it for you by retelling important scenes here, the estate tours are incredibly entertaining and informative in that way. I will say, though, that visiting Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery, I, the visitor, the wine lover, am suddenly connected to complex, often emotional stories about life, love, family, food, wine and adventure that, at times, extend far beyond the Coppola clan.
Thanks to the hospitable personalities and impressive local / historical knowledge of ambassadors Harold (Inglenook) and Bob (Coppola Winery), I feel not simply a bystander to a good tale, but rather a cast member of sorts. One might be inclined to dismiss it as strategic marketing, if it weren’t for the fact that, at the end of the day, visitors, I think, walk away with something: something discovered, or perhaps re-discovered, something awakened. In my case, I carried home with me a feeling that exists somewhere between nostalgia and identity, an awareness that the experience of growing up Italian-American plays no small role in my connection to wine.
And what could be surprising about wine playing the leading role in a story about family, food, wine and adventure by a five-time Oscar winning director? Coppola, by the way, is not the topic here, however, I think there is no way to write about the wines without making the connection: the wines are as connected to Coppola as Italy’s wines are to their respective local traditions and histories. So, you must allow me this one point:
In an interview with trumpeter Miles Davis, Bill Boggs asked Miles, “Your father gave you a trumpet, your mother gave you a violin, for your thirteenth birthday. What if your mother had prevailed?” Miles replied, “It wouldn’t have made any difference.” Whether Coppola had been “given” a 35mm camera, typewriter, saxophone or vineyard, I don’t think it would have made any difference: all other things being equal, a profound expression of love, family, belonging, food, wine and adventure would have emerged in either case.
While Inglenook and the work which Coppola has done there – renovation of the historic estate on a scale that gives one the impression that history can be reassembled – can be best be appreciated by grown-ups, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery is, in a good way, an over the top analogy to the Sunday dinner experience in most Italian homes: families, young and old, coming together, sharing, communicating and an overwhelming sense that you are a part of something much bigger than you.
What’s not to be forgotten here is that the wines stand on their own: lovely stories, Coppola, and Hollywood aside, in the glass, the wines justify the narrative and not the other way around.
And that’s just good wine.
Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Blancaneaux 2011 Created in ‘95 as a partner to the estate’s flagship Rubicon, an organically farmed blend (as far as I am aware, the estate’s other wines mentioned here are also organically farmed) of Marsanne, Raussanne and Viognier. Stone fruit, notes of honey, florals. Rich on the palate underscored with harmonic citrus. Long, complex, mineral finish.
Edizione Pennino 2010 Apparently, early on, consultants advised removal of the Zin vines, a suggestion which Coppolo promptly vetoed. Applause. Berry jam, warm spice, smoke, lush in the mouth, one can drink this one all day.
Cask Cabernet 2009 Sporting the first Inglenook label that did not include a picture of the Chateaux, this Cab is sourced from vineyards located toward the estate’s front property (whereas Rubicon is sourced from vineyard sections located toward the estate’s back property). Stunning red fruit aromatics over rich, raisin-y undertones inflected with mint and spice. Intense flavors of briar fruit, cherry, with sublime, supple tannins. Miles deep.
Rubicon 2009 The estate’s flagship wine, a proprietary Cab blend from vines certified to be heritage clone genetic material brought from France by Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook’s founder, in the 1800’s. Interestingly, Rubicon and Cask are sometimes sourced from the same parcels, albeit from different sections. Rubicon, for me, is a darker personality than the brighter Cask Cabernet, offering insanely good berry fruit, pipe tobacco, violets, notes of baker’s chocolate, possessing good muscle and massive depth. Long, firmly tannic finish. Love it.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery (Sonoma):
FC Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 The vintage I tasted is sourced from Kylah’s Vineyard, Russian River (winemaker Corey Beck grades and selects growers each vintage). The vineyard is known for intense, slowly ripened Pinot, the result of wide diurnal temperature variations. A well-structured, feminine Pinot Noir with a sophisticated personality. Intense, dark fruit impressions play counterpoint with brighter berry tones, flower petals, nicely balanced spice notes. Gorgeous, lady-like tannins. Captivating.
Director’s Cut Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Produced from Alexander Valley vineyard fruit (same latitude as the winery) this Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and finished in stainless steel. Exotic fruit, citrus, hints of orange creamsicle and brown spice. Persistent mineral finish with impressions of dried fruit.
Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 This nicely structured, very drinkable Cab delivers a nose full of dark berry fruit, tobacco and wet earth. Luscious, dark cherry flavors on the palate, hints of raisin, licorice and spice. Fine, ripe tannins and a way smooth finish. An everyday Cab offering great value for money.
Diamond Collection Merlot 2010 Produced with fruit from Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey, the wine contains a lion’s share of Merlot (~ 80%) with some Petit Verdot and a splash of Syrah added. Harmonius, soft in the mouth, brambly berries, saddle leather, brown spice and a smooth tannic suite.
If you are drinking the right wines, it changes you. You come out on the other side of something, with new insights, new attitudes.
Some wines question you. The important ones may define you.
Skin and blood, bottle and wine, it is in our respective containers that we and wine share an intimate space, a state of being. Try to possess it, and it is gone.
When it happens, leave it alone. Some things deserve to be left untranslated.
Perhaps it is some primordial power of extreme rock and sea that imbues Maria Cuomo’s Fuore Bianco Costa D’Amalfi with an ability to enter so deeply into the personal. Or maybe, with the passing of time, vines soak in its mystery, secrets, wisdom. In whatever language this wine is speaking, it keeps me incredibly aware of itself. Mesmerized, I can ask no more of it: I know to let it be.
Cantine Marisa Cuomo is located in Italy’s south on the Amalfi Coast in Fuore. Owners Andrea Ferraioli and Marisa Cuomo use a pergola style vine cultivation system in order to deal with the seacoast terraces and nearly vertical rock face. A cellar has been dug into dolomitic limestone to house the estate’s wooden barrels where wines rest in ideal atmospheric conditions.
Marisa Cuomo Fuore Bianco Costa D’Amalfi is produced from hand harvested Falanghina (60%) and Biancolella (40%) grapes grown on coastal terraces 200-250 meters above sea level in soil composed of dolomitic limestone rock. Fermentation is carried out over 20-30 days. 4 months in stainless steel before bottling.
Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Fresh aromas of grapefruit, citrus, delicate notes of minerals, honey. A sense of roundness in the mouth, light but rich, nicely balanced with acidity that excites while allowing the wine’s more delicate aspects to be appreciated. Soft finish that stays awake on the decrescendo.
Food Pairing Suggestions:
Fish, shell fish, fresh cheeses, grilled vegetables. Loved this wine with pan friend haddock fillets. Fresh mozzarella dressed only with good olive oil was a sensational pairing. To feed your pasta craving, try thin spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and anchovy. Risotto lovers: scallop risotto.
Water, a little wine added.
Water and wine in equal parts.
Wine, a little water added.
That was how you came to wine. What happened along the way was your wine education.
The old timers had their ways of doing things.
It was my grandfather who brought me to wine, taught me how to cook pasta fagioli, and explained why it made sense to travel two towns away for bread if it was there that the best bread was to be found.
When finally you would strike out on your own, your diploma from the University of Old School read: