Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Who doesn’t like Sagratino? Not Marco Arnaldo

It was a beautifully sunny and brisk afternoon when we visited the sprawling Caprai vineyards in Montefalco in late January. It was only days before a once-every-two-decades snowstorm halted movement across Italy but we could still stand outside at the base of the vineyards in as winemaker extraordinaire Marco Arnaldo took us on our first journey into what makes the Sagrantino grape, and Umbrian wines overall, special.

He should know. He manages the 41-year-old family business and has been at the forefront of cutting edge research into new Sagrantino clones, in what he calls the “fruitful collaboration,” with the University of Milan, since 1988. What he has spearheaded is every grape’s dream: a spot on the top indigenous varietals in Italy.

This was the still the beginning of our adventure in Italy for the International Wine

Marco spoiled us with this fabulous Sagrantino that he has perfected early on in our Umbrian adventure.

and Tourism Conference and Marco spoiled us with the 25 Anni, a Sagrantino so named in celebration of the estate’s 25th anniversary in 1996 for its first vintage, 1993.

We didn’t realize then that 25 Anni was a pure-varietal Sagrantino that is as dark and perfect of an native grape as you could find in Umbria, and specifically in Montefalco. It’s deep ruby to purple in color and screams of blackberry and dark plum aromas with a smooth vanilla undertone. Thaddeus raved about the grape – and Marco’s wine rendition of it – for weeks after the trip. “On the palate, the tannins were like a vice grip with that dark fruit and just the slightest hint of pepper,” he said. “It’s a light pepper, not even quite white, but just enough to let you know it’s there.”

With such a strong tannin finish, this was a wine that could hold its own on its own. Marco said it should be aged for 10 to 15 years, but easily can withstand 20 years.

We were also big fans of the Lungarotti 2007, a fine expression itself of the grape that has given Umbria yet another reason to shine.

Have to give a shout out to the Arnaldo-Caprai extra virgin olive oil I’ve been craving for oh so many months now. It was the greatest addition to a number of mid winter meals, particularly the soups we learned how to make in Italy!

Terre del Principe’s passion with pallagrello and pizza

When Manuela Piancastelli first took a group of bloggers through the Terre del Principe in Campania recently she called it a “newer” winery.

“It’s only 500 years old,” she said as she opened the floor and led us down the dark stairs to a cellar her and her husband – the dreamer – Peppe Mancini stumbled upon when looking for the perfect place to age their wine.

This dank place dates back 10 centuries.  Do the math: That’s 1,000 years.

There were a scant 86 barrels in the cellar, dutifully labeled, and some 300 bottles with labels wrapped in plastic to save them from the humidity, which reached 80%. You would think the place would reek of mold, but the smell really wasn’t a nose buster. And the artifacts of aged-old wine de-stemmers, spooky corners and scales of steps led to great picture taking.

Terre del Principe makes seven distinctive wines, mostly from only three indigenous grapes specific to the region: Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. These were mostly new grapes to us and piqued our taste buds and interests.

Moreover, the taste sensation of pairing them with what has to be the best homemade mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and melt-in-your-mouth pizzas this side of paradise no doubt added to the experience. And if there’s anything we’ve learned while traversing through Umbria is that wine is not just a beverage, but a way of living.

The winemaker is Luigi Moio, who Manuela calls “the brains” of their winemaking operation. Luigi, who is a professor of oenology at the University of Naples, unearthed these three grapes that have led to yet another source of wine in a country that has more than its fair share of fabulous vino.

The best of the bunch were the Ambrusco 2009, a 100% Pallagrello Nero that showed a rich ruby color with hints of dark fruit, black leather, cherry plum and just a touch of tobacco on the nose. It ended with a very fine acidity and tannin structure.

The Fontanavigna was a bright, clean refreshing take of 100% Pallagrello Bianco that paired remarkably well with that mouthwatering mozzarella and smooth-as-silk ricotta – made on the premises by a man whose name we never learned but whose face we will never forget.

The Il Sasso di Riccardo, a Passito di Casavechhia, wrapped up the tasting as a semi-sweet red wine that the guy with no head – look at the pictures, we never learned his name either – makes cheese specifically to be paired with this wine. The wine starts sweet, but once touched with spicy and strong cheese, so strong that Manuela would not let us even near it till lunch was ending, takes on a new life and finishes dry. 

On an aside, the pizza wasn’t what we Chicagoans consider “pizza” per se, but it might rank as one of the best slices of dough, tomato sauce and cheese that was ever put together. Luckily for us in the Windy City, the chef, Franco Pepe, will be opening a pizzeria with a partner in our town this year.

Now if we could only get that Ambrusco over here then too….

Wine, chocolates, truffles and lots of learning ahead in Perugia

The International Wine Tourism Conference in Perugia, Italy, is a week away and we’re putting the finishing touches on our presentations and preparations for what is sure to be a mind-blowing experience that we will share. We will be blogging – and yes, as always — tweeting about every little thing we do. Stay tuned!

More on Intl Wine Tourism Conference…

We’ve got one wine power couple — and who doesn’t want to be a part of that? — who shares their favorite experiences about the 2011 International Wine Conference, which was held in Portugal, here — The 2012 conference, which we’re unbelievably excited about attending, will be held in Italy and we’ll be blogging from it daily, sharing every little detail. Plan on it!!!

Miami Int’l Wine Fair is in full swing

Miami Wine Fair
Thaddeus will be blogging from the Miami International Wine Fair this weekend. The decade-old fair is open to the trade only and boasts of being the “leading” wine trade sow in the U.S. Indeed, it is huge: more than 1,800 wines from 20 countries. This will be the seventh edition of the Florida International Wine Challenge, with winners announced Saturday night.

Jordan Winery SA

Jordan is not only a great winery but also a great restaurant attached to the winery.  2009 Nineyards Chardonny was a very good wine with serious notes of buttersctch, vanilla and oak, but a well blance wine that finished lovely.  The 2006 Cobbler Hill, is a bordeaux blend I thought was outstanding it was a drak cherry fruit with hints of tobacco black currant with the oak well intergrated to make a beautiful complex wine.  The other reason to go to Jordan Winery is for the food ‘WOW ‘what a great restaurant at a world class winery hats off to chef George Jardine, and don’t forget to visit the cheese room for an incredibile expericence.