September 9, 2007

Small Vineyards Imports, Italian Wine Tasting Recap!

Small Vineyards Imports
Italian Wine Tasting
Featuring winemaker, Lorenzo Gatteschi
Thursday, Sept. 6th, 5:30 – 7:00pm

This tasting was a blast!

To those of you who came to the tasting, thanks for coming and the positive feedback! If you didn’t come, you missed out! This was so cool and such fun! Great wines! Awesome, friendly guy who knows the wines talking about them! WOW! Great night!

Lorenzo Gatteschi, the importer and also a winemaker, was as charming and passionate as one would expect of an Italian. Like many Italians, he speaks with his hands! A lot! Lorenzo told me to not worry about not knowing Italian when I visit – he showed me how to talk with my hands – “I’m thirsty.” “I’m hungry.” “I’m sleepy.” He said if I know those and smile and am friendly, I’m good to go!

He knows the wines he imports like most parents know their children – and to Lorenzo, these wines and the people who make them are his family!

Small Vineyards is an importer that specializes in Italian wines. They only import Italian wines and they only work with small producers who own their own farms and wineries. Most of these wineries produce less than 4,000 cases in total each year.

Lorenzo Gatteschi’s family makes wine in Tuscany – Chianti Classico Riserva, a Super Tuscan (Merlot) and a “declassified” Sangiovese (the Chianti grape) – it’s declassified because the vines are too young to make Chianti Classico. Lorenzo is also the “public face” of Small Vineyards in the USA – he travels around and talks about the wines and tastes people on them. Lorenzo is 38-years old and he’s the first generation to leave this family town and work much of the year away from it.

Small Vineyards philosophy is a simple one – and it is one we wholeheartedly embrace! The best wines come from producers who care deeply about the wine and the vineyards. Small Vineyards Imports employs a cork-to-cork method - they are involved with the wine from before it goes into the bottle and until you open it – hence Tappo a Tappo (cork-to-cork).

These wines are brought to Maine by Mariner Beverages – one of the new, specialty distributors in Maine! Several of these wines are BRAND NEW to MAINE!

The Wines!

The Whites:

Marchetti Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi 2005 $13.99 - This is one of the best Mediterranean whites under $15 I've ever tasted! Wonderful citrus and mineral flavors and aromas. This also has notes of green apples and tropical fruits. Vibrant acidity and loads of minerality throughout the wine. Picks up a little nuttiness (almonds?) on the finish. Long, crisp finish! Maurizio Marchetti is the winemaker - he's a passionate artist when it comes to wine and painting. His wife is a top-notch cardiologist, so Maurizio likes to say that she brings home the "pancetta" (bacon), which frees him to make wine and paint! In reality, Maurizio's great, great-grandfather was a highly successful spice trader years ago, buying all the land that Maurizio uses to farm. The good news is Maurizio feels little-to-no financial pressure when it comes to his wines - so, he only uses the best grapes (most years he gets no more than 1/2 a bottle from a single vine). From "first-run" juice. The grapes are not "crushed" for this wine - the juice runs freely. 250-year-old estate. Bottled in the classic "amphora" shape that Verdicchio has made famous (oddly, this packaging is a modern invention). 2,100 cases made. Food pairing - seafood, shellfish, swordfish, etc. Great with poultry. Drinks well on its own, but this is really a food wine!

Le Rote Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2005 (Tuscany, Italy) $16.99 - One of the best Vernaccias I have tasted! Aromas and flavors of flowers, minerals, spice and citrus. This wine is big and lush. Most definitely, not a wimpy, watery white - this has some backbone to it! It's bright, fresh and vibrant....and it packs a little punch! Michelangelo once said of Vernaccia, it "tickles, licks, bites and stings." Vernaccia is THE classic white wine of Tuscany! It's the 1st wine in Italy to earn DOC status! Husband-and-wife team that produces a tiny amount of wine from 35-year-old vines. Fermented and aged in stainless steel.. Aged 3 months in the bottle. 1,000 cases made (the winery only makes 2,500 cases total). Food pairing - white fish, shellfish, salads. Definitely a perfect summer food wine!

The Reds:

Giuseppe Martorana

This is one of the few small, family-owned wineries in Sicily that bottles its own wine. It's in SW Sicily, near Agrigento. Giuseppe Martorana is the winemaker. Giuseppe's father has never left Sicily. Giuseppe spent 15 years with the Italian police - mostly in Florence protecting a famous judge during the Mafia trials - he witnessed firsthand the wine renaissance in Tuscany. He knew Sicily had the same potential - so he returned home to make wine. His father told him no one would ever care about his "modern" techniques...that this was just Sicilian wine....the day he told his father their wine was going to America, his father cried (tears of joy and respect for his son).

Martorana* Contrada Ragabo Nero d’Avola 2005 (Sicily, Italy) $9.99 - This is simply delicious, fun-to-drink and a great value! This just rips with aromas and flavors of fresh, ripe blueberries, black plums, black cherries and almonds. You also pick up a hint of rhubarb. Soft tannins. Well-balanced acidity. Dry finish that just smacks of dark berry fruit! When asked to describe his wine, Giuseppe said he wanted a wine that is easy to drink, that "when you are finished eating with your family, you notice 3 or 4 empty bottles on the table." Made from 70-year-old vines. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Aged 4 months in the bottle. "Green-harvesting" to lower the yield and improve the grapes. High-density planting in the vineyards to stress the vines and improve the grapes. 4,166 cases made. Food pairing - this is a perfect summer red! Great for grilling! Great for drinking on the deck or patio with friends!

Martorana* Nero d’Avola 2004 (Sicily, Italy) $17.99 - From the volcanic soils of Agrigento on the West coast of Sicily, comes one of the great grape varietals of the world. Nero d’Avola is an early ripening, full-bodied varietal with generous aromas of ripe plums, dark chocolate, berry cobbler, and almonds. The Martorana family has been making wine for three generations, and still hand-harvests in wicker baskets. The vines are from 30 - 90 years old, and Giuseppe Martorana harvests extremely low-yields, one of the lowest in the South of Italy. Thus, the wine has great mineral complexity and elegance. It has an appealing gentle cream to its mouth-feel. Ageworthy for 10 years-plus. Food pairing – roasted and grilled meats. Stews. Mushroom dishes.

Giuseppe Lonardi

This was a highlight of the most tasting. Tasting 3 distinctly different versions of Valpolicella!
  1. Classico
  2. Ripasso
  3. Amarone
This is a tiny winery in a village close to Verona, in the gorgeous hills of Valpolicella. The winery only makes 4,000 cases each year. We are tasting 3 of its wines.

Giuseppe Lonardi (Bepi to his wife) is a 4th generation winemaker. His wife, Marilena, runs a small bistro near the wine cellars. She makes a wonderful Amarone-infused risotto - according to Lorenzo this is the most INCREDIBLE dish EVER - 2 bottles of Amarone, 6 hours of stirring the risotto....then heaven in a bowl!

Bepi has a great toast, “Peccato gravissimo ē quello di stare senza vino e senza amante.” Translation: “It is a grave mistake to live without wine and a lover.”

His friends says the 3 most important things in Giuseppe’s life are food, wine and his wife. He laughs and says, “Not necessarily in that order!” We just don't know the order - only Bepi does!

Giuseppe Lonardi Valpolicella Classico 2005 (Italy) $14.99 - The classic red wine for everyday drinking in the Veneto. Aromas and flavors of “dusty” red berries, dark berries, herbs and spice. Moderately tannic with nice acidity. 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. No barrel aging or fermentation. 1,100 cases made (the winery only makes 4,000 cases). Food pairing – Wonderful with chicken, duck, pork, spicy foods, tuna, salmon and more!

Giuseppe Lonardi Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore 2003 (Italy) $26.99 - One of the best Ripassos I’ve tasted! Wonderful focused aromas of blackberries, flowers and herbs. Flavors of bright, fresh dark berries, herbs, violets, and dark cherries. Great length on the finish. Fine-grained tannins. 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. Some of the grapes are dried and all of them are “passed over” the “lees” from a previous Amarone vintage – extracting the richness and lushness from that legendary wine’s “big” style, but leaving a wine that is more approachable at a younger age! Aged 6-10 months in Slavonian barriques and 3-6 months in the bottle. 1,800 cases made (the winery only makes 4,000 cases). Food pairing - Drink with a rich meal or just enjoy!

Giuseppe Lonardi Amarone 2001 (Veneto, Italy) $69.99 - This is one big, bold, powerful wine! Aromas and flavors dried dark fruit, chocolate, cedar and baking spices. Huge and voluptuous in the mouth. Just a massive mouthful of wine! As big as it is, this is well-balanced! Giuseppe Lonardi is a tiny winemaker. He and his wife own an inn and farm in the Veneto. And, he makes some of the best wine in the world! 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella & 5% Molinara. The grapes are dried for 100 days (losing 30-40% of their liquid). 100% Aged 24 months in 100% 2nd use oak barrels (50% barrique and 50% tonneaux). Aged 6-10 months in the bottle. 750 cases made. This will age for 30 years! Food pairing - lamb or steak. This is one wine that I'd rather have after dinner with a couple of friends and just linger over!

Lorenzo Gatteschi’s Wine

Podere Ciona Montegrossoli IGT 2004 (Tuscany, Italy) $16.99 – This is Sangiovese (the Chianti grape) with 5% Alicante Bouschet! Classic Italian red with aromas and flavors of red berries, some Provencal herbs, a little dust and a little earth. Well-balanced and integrated tannins and acidity. Eating a little chicken or beef with this wine really transformed the flavors and texure! I loved this!

They don’t make Chianti Classico Riserva from these vines because they are too young – otherwise this vineyard is smackdab in the middle of the Chianti Classico region and one day soon the vines will be old enough to produce their much more expensive Riserva. Right now, we are the fortunate The family makes less than 1,000 cases each year. Their vineyards are among the highest elevations in Chianti Classico in the hills of Montegrossi near Gaiole. Food pairing – poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), pork, mushroom risotto or pasta dishes. This is a perfect wine with Thanksgiving Dinner! So perfect, that I special ordered 4 cases of it for delivery in November!

Maurizio Marchetti

Marchetti* Rosso Conero 2004 (Marche, Italy) Reg. $18.99 Sale $17.99 - A wonderful wine from the Marche! Aromas & flavors of vanilla, dried berries - raspberries, cranberries & blackberries, dark plums, spices (pepper & baking), & dark, bittersweet chocolate. Well-balanced acidity & tannins. Full-bodied. Long, rich finish. 90% Montepulciano & 20% Sangiovese. Aged 18 months in older Slavonian oak barrels & 2 months in the bottle. 2,500 cases. Maurizio Marchetti is the winemaker - he's a passionate artist when it comes to wine and painting. His wife is a top-notch cardiologist, so Maurizio likes to say that she brings home the "pancetta" (bacon), which frees him to make wine and paint! In reality, Maurizio's great, great-grandfather was a highly successful spice trader years ago, buying all the land that Maurizio uses to farm. The good news is Maurizio feels little-to-no financial pressure when it comes to his wines - so, he only uses the best grapes (most years he gets no more than 1/2 a bottle from a single vine). Food pairing - steaks, lamb, grilled meats, rich vegetarian dishes, etc.!