Podere Sapaio Volpolo 2005

Podere Sapaio Volpolo, Bolgheri Rosso DOC

The words “experimentation” and “innovation” are a lot like guns: get the wrong people involved and things can go terribly wrong.

But, at Podere Sapaio, where experimentation and innovation in seeking new expressions of Bordolese (Bordeaux) vines in Bolgheri is the ruling philosophy, we need not worry: owner Massimo Piccin is just the kind of person to make things go right. Very right.

I spent a day with Massimo a few years ago, tasting Podere Sapaio’s wines and making some professional visits. I enjoyed the wines and the time I spent with Massimo very much, and so was happy to recently find a bottle of Podere Sapaio’s Volpolo 2005 sitting on the retail shelf.

podere-sapaio-volpolo-2005Located in Tuscany nearby Castagneto Carducci, Podere Sapaio was established in 1999. Under the good guidance of consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini, Podere Sapaio produces two wines, Volpolo and Sapaio (Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC), different interpretations of the Bolgheri territory.

The names Volpolo and Sapaio derive from ancient Tuscan vines called Volpola and Sapaia. The wine names, along with Podere Sapaio’s trademark crown logo on the bottle label, were especially chosen to pay tribute to the nobility of both the land and its wines.

Volpolo is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot. Vineyards are situated above quaternary deposits and soil includes loose sandy and well-drained calcareous components. Selected grapes are manually harvested.

Fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled steel vats. The wine is then aged in barrique for 14 months followed by an additional 6 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Deeply colored red with purple reflections. Cedar and spice, leather, smoke, and earth on the nose. A powerful, curvaceously smooth palate shows great concentration of dark fruit balanced by delicious acid and just the right flex of smooth tannins. Notes of coffee and cocoa powder. Smooth and long on a brushed-velvet finish.

Note: Decanted for ninety minutes.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: beef, veal, lamb, or game, this wine is the perfect filet mignon partner; PASTA: richly sauced pasta of all types; RISOTTO / POLENTA: with sausages; CHEESES: young – medium aged cheeses

Featured Producer: Michele Satta

Michele Satta Bolgheri Rosso 2006, DOC
Michele Satta Diambra Rosso 2007, IGT
Michele Satta Costa di Giulia 2007, IGT

viale_dei_cipressiBefore Bolgheri, the coastal wine region of Tuscany in Italy, became famous for its wines, it was famous for its boulevard of historic cypress trees,  the *Viale dei Cipressi, immortalized in the poetry of Giosue Carducci who lived in Bolgheri between 1838-1848.

Helping to make the wines of Bolgheri famous to lovers of Italian wine is Michele Satta.  Satta, one of a group of elite Bolgheri wine producers, has proven to be the classic “switch hitter”, capable of moving with agility from career beginnings in agricultural management to professional life as a successful wine producer.  Located in the area of Castagneto Carducci, the Michele Satta estate comprises about 25 hectares of vineyard planted to the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Vermentino, and Sauvignon Blanc to name a few, varietals that seem to have adapted incredibly well in Bolgheri and give classic expression to Bolgheri wines.

bolgheri-rossoMichele Satta’s Bolgheri Rosso 2006 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Merlot 30%, Sangiovese 30%, and Syrah 10% grown in soil of good exposure and rich in minerals.  Only the best matured grapes are hand selected for Satta’s Bolgheri Rosso from high density vineyards (6.200+ plants/ha).  No artificial yeasts are used in conducting the fermentation and contact with skins is allowed for 3 weeks or so.  The wine is bottled unfiltered after 12 months ageing in barrique (Satta has expanded cellaring capabilities, having dug into hill and rock to acommodate space requirements for barrique ageing.)

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The wine’s deep, rather intense ruby red color signals the wonderfully vivid aromatics of red and black fruit to come, showing hints of tobacco, saddle leather and spice.  Fresh red and black fruits follow through to the palate, full of life and easy to drink with good acidity and nicely integrated oak.  Enough backbone to stand up to rich foods and a smooth, fruity finish sporting velvety tannins that leave you wanting for more.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats:  beef, veal chops, or lamb – try beef as a first choice;  Pasta:  dressed in rich meat sauces;  Cheeses:  fresh cheeses;  TRY this wine with international dishes such as Asian / Thai spicy noodles or mild-medium spiced Indian lamb dishes.


michele-satta-diambra-rosso-20071Michele Satta Diambra Rosso 2007

Satta’s Diambra Rosso 2007 sits on a varietal foundation of Sangiovese 70%, the remaining 30% being Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and allowable others. Fermentation / maceration is drawn out over three weeks time with the usual pumping over activities. After malolactic, the wine spends 6 months in wood before bottling.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty cerulean blues refract around a deep ruby core while scents of ripe berries, undertones of scrub pine and cedar catch my attention as I look on. The wine has a big, round, soft presence on the palate with flavors of red and black fruit, herbs, and a hint of almond. Soft, but very present tannins and good acidity give definition. Nice all round balance and a lively, clean finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: aged beef, roast beef, bison steaks or ground bison “burgers”, grilled pork or chicken; Pasta: sauced conservatively with meat sauces, especially that contain a bit of cream; Cheese: young Pecorino, brie, camembert, ricotta salata; Cured Meats: mortadella with pistachio, prosciutto


michele-satta-costa-di-giulia-2007Michele Satta Costa di Giulia 2007 IGT

After beginning life as 100% Vermentino, Satta’s Costa di Giulia is now made from 65% Vermentino and 35% of the Sauvignon he planted in 1995 – testimony to Satta’s conviction that Bolgheri is capable of producing great white wines as well as reds.

Super care and attention is given in the vineyard with work being carried out by hand. Afterward controlled temperature fermentation is followed by malolactic, then bottling in February.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A sunny, amber-gold color seems to lend the right spirit to the wine’s vivacious nose composed of peachy, floral tones. Peach follows onto the palate, along with a suggestion of grapefruit and a delicious note of mineral sea salt. Good weight and structure – all curves, no angles. Long on the finish, and balancing a rather appealing, slightly bitter herbiness with delicious, sweet fruit.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Seafood, grilled fish and grilled vegetables are in the sweet spot for foods to pair well with this wine. Especially try: Appetizer of stuffed artichoke (breadcrumbs, garlic, pecorino, parsley) or a cool, crab meat salad; Spaghetti with lobster (or crab) in a light red sauce; Seafood stew like Bouillabaisse or a Risotto “frutti di mare”.

*Viale dei Cipressi photo from Wikipedia, where you can see it and read more about Viale dei Cipressi: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viale_dei_Cipressi

A Moon and a Sun: Pairing Italian Wine with Chinese Food

A moon and a sun inhabit our home. One is called Italy, the other called China. Which is which, you may ask? They take turns playing moon and sun, balancing momentum and gravity, constantly in need of the other’s orbit.

chinese-mealWhen I first mentioned to my Italian mother that I was thinking of marrying a woman from mainland China, her first question was this: “Oh my God, what will you eat ? “

15 years later, my wife and I still enjoy exploring each other’s food traditions, figuring out what we’ll eat. There is more in common between the great culinary traditions of Italy and China than you might think.

Working in the Italian wine business has had its advantages: it’s not uncommon to have 10 wines open at once with the opportunity to taste all of them against the many dishes from Italy, China, and elsewhere that we cook at home.

Italian wines are exceptionally adept at table – and not just the Italian table. There are many, many gorgeous pairings of Chinese / Asian dishes and Italian wines which we’ve discovered.

Here is a multi-dish, home cooked Chinese meal we enjoyed along with recommended pairings of Italian wines. You may not cook or order these EXACT dishes, but you’ll get the idea. Click the suggested wine name for more information about the wines / producers:

chinese-chickenChicken with leeks, bell pepper, spicy pepper from the garden, and onion.

Wine Pairing Suggestion:

    Roero Arneis


Buns stuffed with pork, chives, fresh bamboo and five spice powder.

Wine Pairing Suggestion:

    Bolgheri Rosso


Bitter vegetable stuffed with tofu, pork, water chestnut.

Wine Pairing Suggestion:

    Pinot Grigio Dolomiti

Buon Appetito ! OR…. Hao Chi !!!! 🙂

P.S. My mother now loves Chinese food !

Gaja Magari 2006

Gaja Magari 2006, Toscana IGT

Magàri is one of those Italian words that has several meanings:

“I wish !”, “if only..”, “maybe / perhaps”.

“Of course !”, “you wish !” or “you bet !!!”.

All are pretty fair translations.

But magàri’s specific meaning is really defined by situation – one needs context to truly understand.

gaja-magari-bottleI don’t know for sure if Gaja was being ironic in naming his wine Magari. But I do find a certain irony in the imagined question, “Can you Really make a wine of classic Bordeaux blend that uniquely reflects Bolgheri terrior and the spirit of Tuscany?”

After tasting Gaja’s Magari 2006, I can only imagine the resounding answer: “Magàri !!!”, context = “You bet !!!” 😉

The legendary Angelo Gaja began thinking of branching out beyond his native Piemonte during the 1990’s. Two areas of Tuscany – Montalcino and Bolgheri – areas especially well known for their high quality reds, eventually became home to Gaja winemaking ventures.

Bolgheri is home to Ca’Marcanda, the estate that produces Gaja’s sumptuous IGT Toscana named Magari. In a way characteristic of other Gaja wines, Magari is deliberately made as an IGT wine, thus allowing the maestro to determine varietals and blend unfettered by DOC disciplinare regulations.

Although Gaja represents 4 generations of Piemontese winemaking, he came to Tuscany as a “learner”, not a “teacher”, translating generations of Piedmont winemaking experience to realize unique and optimal results with the Tuscan terroirs.

Magari is a blend of 50% Merlot and 25% each of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, grown on the Ca’Marcanda estate from vines averaging 10+ years old. Vinyards uniquely reflect a combination of dark and lighter soils – “terre brune” and “terre blanche”, respectively – featuring loamy clay (darker soil) and stones, pebbles, and limestone (lighter soil). Fermentation is carried out separately by varietal with blending taking place during the January / February following harvest . Maturation takes place in a combination of new and slightly used barriques for 18 months, followed by at least 6 months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Blueberry hues swirl and twist around a core of rich looking, deep garnet color, an almost visual language of the wine’s elegant, plush and rounded character. Sensuously ripe, plummy-cassis fruit and spice on the nose, plums continue through on the palate with alternating rushes of raspberry, espresso and chocolate. Good minerality and acidity, perfectly integrated oak, with classy tannins seductively cloaked by the wine’s soft, round personality. Finishes long and smooth, without a rasp or hard edge in sight.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: filet mignon, thick steaks, roast beef or rib roast (served with creamed spinach and mascarpone mashed potato !), grilled duck breast; roast or grilled lamb; guinea hen roasted with grapes and raisins; Pasta: try agnolotti or ravioli stuffed with spinach / chard and ricotta; Sushi, oil rich fish like tuna, salmon, eel; ALSO TRY this wine with Beijing Duck !!!


Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2005

Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2005

The end of all good music is to affect the soul.
—- Claudio Monteverdi, from his 8th Book of Madrigals

gaja-promisLike good music, good wine should stir the soul.  As if inspired by that “Giver of delight”, Euterpe, Muse of Music, Angelo Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda Promis 2005 reminds me of what Monteverdi was meaning in the quote above.

The legendary Angelo Gaja began thinking of branching out beyond his native Piemonte during the 1990’s.  Two areas of Tuscany – Montalcino and Bolgheri – areas especially well known for their high quality reds, eventually became home to Gaja winemaking ventures that play an important role in the production of his wine Promis.  In a way characteristic of other Gaja wines, Promis is deliberately made as an IGT wine, thus allowing the maestro to work outside of DOC disciplinare regulations in determining varietals and blend from both of these Tuscan production areas.

Although Gaja represents 4 generations of Piemontese winemaking, he came to Tuscany as a “learner”, not a “teacher”, translating generations of Piedmont winemaking experience to realize unique and optimal results with the Tuscan terroirs.

Produced at Ca’Marcanda, Super Tuscan Promis is a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, from the Ca’Marcanda estate in Bolghieri, and 10% Sangiovese from Gaja’s Montalcino property Pieve Santa Restituta, production areas that map incredibly well to producing phenomenal results with those specific vines.  Fermentation is carried out separately by varietal.  Maturation takes place in a combination of new and used barriques for 18 months, followed by several months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The whole orchestra plays at once with Gaja’s Promis.  A profound harmony seems to come from somewhere deep within the wines core, all the wine’s components reverberating in sympathetic reaction.  The wine sent a garnet wave of crushed velvet swirling lush, warm, dark cherry fruit all over my tongue, embellished with notes of spice, herb, and leather.  The finish is sensational, long and delicious fading to pianissimo and disappearing into silence.  Where some wines lead with an incredible sense of place, that is not quite the case here:  though still decidely “Italian”, the astonishing thing about this wine is the integration of its parts –  you look for a seam, but there is none to be found – magnificent balance, incredible craftsmanship.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Egg pasta, especially with morel or mushroom sauce; Ravioli, especially stuffed with ricotta or pumpkin; Ossobucco (braised veal shanks); Sushi; Beef Bourguignon; stuffed mushrooms; steak