Wine, Style, Fashion Collide Celebrating 20 Vintages of Falesco Montiano at Kiton NYC

As 2016 was sliding to a close, the elements of style, grace, elegance and good taste seemed nowhere to be found on the US national stage. Which is, in part, why raising a toast to honor the 20th vintage of Falesco’s flagship wine Montiano stood out in the moment.

The Cotarella family of Falesco winery and the Paone family of Kiton Bespoke Clothing, a master of the Italian art of fashion, joined forces to provide a vertical tasting of the famed wine at Kiton NYC, alongside Kiton’s immaculate designs. Yes, the wines gave good testimony to the fame and acclaim they have earned. But, we’ll get to that soon enough.

Indulge me, first, to note that the evening’s gracious hospitality and stylish presentations were not only perfect backdrops for the elegant expression of the Montiano wines. They also just happened to give a gentle reminder that civilized living, in some regard, is, well… a matter of good taste.

Interestingly, “civilized living” is one descriptor I might use to convey an impression of Falesco’s Montiano. Simply said, the wine is so elegantly done that one cannot help but reflect on civilized living when tasting it. Produced from 100% Merlot, Montiano was first released in 1993, a result of work done by Riccardo Cotarella, aka “Mr. Merlot”(Gambero Rosso), during the ‘80s. In their production zone in Italy’s Lazio, Montiano grapes reach a high level of ripeness which contributes to the wine’s fine balance. Grown on volcanic soil rich in rock, the grapes are sourced from an old, naturally low-yielding vineyard and undergo rigorous selection before undergoing stainless steel fermentation followed by aging in French barrique.

The evening’s wines – vintages 2001, 20015, 2010, 2013 – all showed great depth with gorgeous layers of ripe red fruit, notes of spice and cocoa. Sensual and refined, the wines were a pleasure to hold in the mouth.

I include several photos here because most folks can still use a dose of elegance, grace, style … and good taste … at the moment. I hope you enjoy them.

Hats off to Teuwen Communications NYC for a wonderful evening of wine, style, brilliant concept and great execution.

Stealing the New Year’s Eve Show: Sagrantino

A quick check of our local weather forecast feels as if mother nature will set the tone heading into New Year’s Eve weekend: “Accumulating snow across the high terrain…overspreading the region…”.

No complaints. Firewood is split and stacked. And anyway, I’m in the mood for a cozy winter night of celebration to welcome in 2017.

Top of mind, a warming, hearty menu full of savory rich flavors seems apropos and the wine should follow suit.

img_6503From the Montefalco region of Umbria in central Italy, the Sagrantino grape is not only indigenous to the area, but has a rather ancient record of growing there according to knowers of local tradition. The name Sagrantino, some believe, derives from the Italian sagra, meaning feast, a fact that resonates during the festive time of New Year celebrations. The variety produces a wine of the same name, known to be Italy’s most tannic wine and with a quality of tannin that is remarkably polished, a distinction making the wines of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (made with 100% Sagrantino grapes) truly unique.

Combining power and elegance, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines show good complexity and sturdy tannins and have the stuffing to cut the richness of, say, a tender filet mignon, to create a harmonic blend of flavors. Pairing classic sides such as creamed spinach and truffle mashed potatoes with of a glass of Sagrantino will surely not disappoint.

img_6507To ring in the New Year with a proper toast of good bubbles is tradition, no doubt. But, for the main event at table – a decadent, celebratory menu featuring roasted meats with all the trimmings – Sagrantino’s power, elegance, and beautifully tannic personality will steal the show.

Broccatelli Galli Montefalco Sangrantino 2010

Loads of bramble-berry fruit, notes of savory herb, balanced spice, plenty of smooth, luxurious tannins to finish.

Note: Wine sample provided.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé

In some strange and decidedly unscientific way, there are two kinds of wine.

There are those wines that make you forget; streets you’ve walked down, dirty, wide or narrow, unique as they are, houses you’ve lived in and how you were rich or poor in them, stones you’ve thrown into the water as a barefoot child, what is real and what is false.

Then there are the wines that make you dream; visions of great cities and palaces, sailing routes across ancient seas, golden mosaics, secret passageways, the ruined and the glorious.

Every once and a while, you find a wine whose emotional impact makes you do both.

Ben Rye, Donnafugata, Jose Rallo

Such is the case with Ben Ryé, a naturally sweet white wine from the island of Pantelleria, produced by Donnafugata.

Named from Arabic for “Son of the Wind”, in reference to the constant wind sweeping Pantelleria’s grape clusters, Ben Ryé is produced from the native Italian wine grape known as Zibibbo or Moscato di Alessandria.

Grown in volcanic, mineral rich soil at altitudes between 20 and 400 meters, grapes are selected and hand-harvested into crates, and undergo a period of withering. Fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel tank. Dried grapes, de-stemmed and hand-selected, are added to fresh must in batches. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 7 months followed by an additional 12 months in bottle.

I’ve been fortunate to experience Ben Ryé on many occasions, and recently, while in Verona at Vinitaly 2016, I had an opportunity to taste Ben Ryé poured by José Rallo of Donnafugata, with time for a photo as well.

Tasting Note:

Honeyed fig and apricot, orange peel, citrus, caramel and pistachio nut, Mediterranean scrub bush. Remarkably balanced, penetrating harmony and unique freshness. Insanely long finish. An excess of deliciousness.

Enjoy Ben Ryé with desserts like ricotta-filled cannoli or as an accompaniment to quiet time … reading, listening to music, falling in love … and certainly … to forgetting and dreaming 😉

Tasting Cannonau at Vigne Surrau

* Observations from a sponsored press trip to the Gallura region of Sardegna, September 2015

Sardegna is full of things that draw you into the island’s untamed wildness.

Shepherd dogs herding sheep in the moonlight.

Age-old nuraghi, megalithic structures from ancient Nuragic civilization.

Cork forests where time seems to stand still.

Granite stone curiously shaped by wind, eyes of the island, watching everything.

Gallura, nuraghe

Absorbing Sardegna’s poem of powerful, mysterious, untamed wildness, goes a long way in listening for … and understanding … what Cannonau has to say.

On a recent trip to Gallura in Sardegna’s northeast corner, my visit to Vigne Surrau winery helped with the quality of that process.

Gallura, cork forest

Let’s begin by getting something sorted:

Cannonau is a synonym for Grenache, or Garnacha, if you are among the folks who believe that the vine was brought to Sardegna by the Spanish. The grape is also known as Alicante elsewhere in Italy. Cannonau is grown far and wide in Sardegna. In fact, the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC production zone covers most of the island, the vine having adapted well to the heat and dryness.

Now, how shall I say this politely … I have on other occasions tasted Cannonau that played second fiddle to the more preeminent wines of certain areas. So, regarding Cannonau in Gallura, one might naturally fear its role to be as an ornament in service to what many see as Gallura’s star DOCG attraction, Vermentino di Gallura.

Not so.

Gallura, granite

I found Vigne Surrau’s Cannonau wines to be neither self-conscious nor derivative alongside Gallura’s Vermentino tradition, able to communicate that dimension of untamed wildness and the island’s natural environment. The wines drank with an appreciated rusticity controlled with a dose of modern polish, rich, earthy, with evocative Mediterranean notes.

Surra Sincaru Sole Ruju

Sincaru 2013
Produced from Cannonau grown in decomposed granite soils. After vinification in stainless steel the wine spends several months in concrete tanks. Rich scents of wild berries, spice and black pepper, notes of Mediterranean bush. Svelte in the mouth, with a big yet supple structure, mineral sensations and great length. Sensational.

Sincaru Riserva 2011
Made only in the best vintages, after long maceration, spends 24 months in large oak. Powerful, intense, yet very smooth, this Riserva shows more nuance than Sincaru normale, a more jammy quality to the fruit, sense of forest floor, roasted meat, and a long, persistent finish. A stunning bottle of wine that sets a serious varietal benchmark.

Barriu 2012
A blend of Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Sardo (Muristellu) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak for twelve months and several more months in bottle. Full bodied and expansive with tons of plummy berry fruit, scents of Mediterranean bush, balanced notes of vanilla. Elegant, supple on the palate, and a persistent finish that ends with a pleasantly bitter note, courtesy, I suspect, of the Muristellu. Big personality.

Surrau 2013
A blend of Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Sardo (Muristellu) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinified and aged in steel, three weeks maceration on skins. Spice and Mediterranean herbs against a bright, juicy core of fresh red berry fruit. Easy to drink.

Surrau Brut Rose 2010
100% Cannonau grapes produced using metodo classico, Surrau Brut Rose is held at constant temperature for 24 months for second fermentation, another 2 months in bottle after disgorgement before release. Light rose color like you’d see at sunset, elegantly perfumed, precise on the palate, with fine perlage. A classy, sophisticated wine.

Sole Ruju 2013
Produced with Cannonau and Muristellu (Bovale Sardo), grapes for this passito are picked during the last days of October and left to dry on trays. After fermentation is carried out in stainless steel, the wine is the aged in 500 litre oak barrels for several months. Deep ruby color, rich aromas of forest berries, fragrances that evoke the Mediterranean, and a finish that echoes on and on. A thought provoking wine of emotional intensity.

Related posts:
A Visit To Vigne Surrau in Sardegna’s Gallura Region
Vigne Surrau Winery: Fusing Nature, Art, Hospitality