October 3, 2009

October Wines of the Month

October Wines of the Month

We’re off to Italy!

For Tiers One and Two, we are on Sicily at a single winery, Fondo Antico.

The symbol of Sicily is the “trinicria,” which bears quite the resemblance to the triangular symbol of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. Both appear to be based on Greek mythology. The Sicilian “trinicria” has a Gorgon’s head.

The winemaker, Augustino, was here on Sept. 23rd and we were able to taste these 4 wines with him and wrangle an invitation to Sicily!

The winery, Fondo Antico, is near Trapani, between the villages of Portelli and Fulgatore, called Frazione Rilievo. This is in the Marsala part of Sicily and is a the western end of the island. They have about 200 acres of vineyards, growing grapes local to Sicily such as Nero d’Avola, Grillo, Inzolia and Grecanico. They also cultivate Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay.

The Wines

Tier One

“I Versi” means “the verses.” Just as reading a poem reveals layers of complexity, so do these wines as you enjoy them!

The White:

I Versi Bianco IGT 2008 (Sicily) $12.99 - A pretty Sicilian white that’s clean, unoaked, delicate & dry, with a light, herbal touch. This wine has nice, crisp acidity that makes it a perfect pairing with most seafood and salads. Aromas of limes, pineapples and green apples. The flavors are similar with a little roasted almonds on the finish. 50% Inzolia and 50% Grecanico. Stainless steel fermentation. Food pairing – light hors d’oeuvres, seafood, fish soups, grilled veggies, salads and fresh cheeses.

The Red:

I Versi Rosso IGT 2007 (Sicily) $12.99 - A young wine, with a bright ruby red color with fun floral aromas. This is smooth, soft and drinks easily! It has nice berry fruit, a little spiciness and something akin to anise or licorice in the flavors (and remember, I really don’t like licorice candy, but I like it in wines when it’s just a subtle note as it is here). Food pairing – meat dishes, mushroom dishes, aged and fresh cheeses, game, pâté,

Blend of 50% Nero d’Avola and 50% Merlot. John Dietz, who works with Easterly Wines (the distributor for these wines) called Merlot, “The international grape of mystery.” Meaning = Merlot may take on many forms and styles depending on growing practices and winemaking. In the movie, “Sideways,” Miles definitely gives Merlot a bad rep! “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any…..Merlot!” Some Merlot deserves such a reputation – the juice in this wine does not. It’s good! Fermented and briefly aged in stainless steel.

Tier 2

The White:

Fondo Antico Grillo Parlante IGT 2008 (Sicily) $16.99 - A “grillo parlante” means “talking cricket” in Italian, but of course Grillo is also the name of the native Sicilian grape found in this fresh white. In Italian, “Grillo Parlante” is actually Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio.

What I love about this wine is that aside being fantastic; you can drink it at least 2 ways. You can just sip it and not think about it and you’ll love it! Or, you can linger over it and think about the layers and complexity…..it’s great either way! This has a straw-yellow color with just slight greenish tints. The aromas are floral with pear, white peach and lemon. It’s refreshing as you drink it and the rich lemon, pear and nutty flavors come out. Manually harvested grapes. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. Food pairing – ceviche, poached seafood, lemon chicken dishes, shellfish.

The Red:

Fondo Antico Nero D’Avola IGT 2006 (Sicily) $19.99 – This is a fresh, robust and full-bodied red with lots of red fruit (plums, berries, cherries) and a nice spiciness. This is velvety and smooth with fine-grained tannins. It has a nice spiciness to the finish that is more peppery than alcohol (it’s only 13.5% alcohol). Nice long finish. 100% Nero d’Avola. Aged 6 months in French oak barriques and 2 months in bottle. Food pairing – Risotto al Nero d’Avola with cloves (pretty much reduce the Nero d’Avola from a bottle to a pint and then stir it into the risotto), grilled meats, cheese such as Manchego or Piave Vecchio or Pecorino Toscano. Roasted tuna with onions and mint.

Tier 3

We are headed as far from Sicily in Italy as we can go – the northeastern corner! The area is the Alto Adige in the Südtirol in the province of Bolzano-Bozen. This province is an autonomous region in Italy and is the most German part of the country. Nearly 70% of the population is German.

This area is dominated by the Dolomite Mountains, which are a former seabed. So, the rocks are limestone and this adds tremendous minerality to the wines of the area. The Dolomites shield cold, bad weather from the north, leaving the valleys open to mild air from the Mediterranean. A warm summer wind comes from Lake Garda to ease the summer heat. At night, cool air from the high mountains floods the valleys. This alternation of warm, sunny days with cool nights enables the grapes to ripen slowly and increase the intense aromas, sugar levels and brisk acidity necessary to making great wine!

“Gambero Rosso,” the classic reference for Italian wine, says that this region, the Alto Adige, is one of the top 5 wine areas in Italy, asserting that this is also the home of the "best assortment of wine cooperatives in the world, exemplary for both their efficiency and the high general quality of even their run-of-the-mill products." Further kudos for Colterenzio from the same publication: "Their entire line has few competitors in any part of Italy, and their whites are among the very best of their area."

The White:

Schreckbichl Colterenzio Prædium Pinot Grigio “Puiten” DOC 2007 (Alto Adige) $25.99 – A $25 Pinot Grigio?! Just what is Eric thinking?

The Roman word “Prædium” means wine estate and is a symbol of a mature, deep-rooted wine culture. “Puiten” is the single vineyard where the grapes for this wine grow.

This is a great white wine. It’s lush and full and soft in its texture. Complex, subtle, aromatic, many, many layers and nuances! Aromas of orchard fruits, minerals and flowers pour out of the glass! Flavors of apples, pears, stone fruits, fresh cut hay and honey. Crisp and refreshing with great acidity. Fermented in stainless steel. Part of the wine is fermented in large Slovenian oak casks (5,000 liter barrels) where it undergoes malolactic fermentation to add richness and weight. Aged on the lees for 6 months to increase the richness and velvety texture of the wine. The “wines” – one is in stainless and the other in cask – are then blended, lightly filtered and bottled. They only use organic fertilizers and biological pest controls. Food pairing – pasta with chicken, fish and chips, seafood salad, chicken salad with apples and grapes. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 90 points

The Red:

H. Lentsch Lagrein "Morus" 2003 (Südtirol) $37.99 – The name “Morus” comes from Morus Nigra and signifies “mulberry tree”. Until the 1940s, its cultivation was very important, as it was grown in support of the raising of silkworms. Nowadays there are only a few examples of mulberry trees left. One is located at the lower end of a slope planted for many years with Lagrein. To keep alive the memory of this important agricultural heritage, this Lagrein from carries this name, “Morus.” Lentsch is a family-owned estate founded in 1882 in Bronzolo.

Lagrein is the grape from which this deep, red South Tyrolean wine is made in the lowlands around Bolanzo, where the sunshine and soil texture give it a unique character. This Lagrein is a full-bodied, garnet-hued wine with a wide range of aromas, including with blueberry, bilberry, and violet. On the palate it is warm and smooth, with soft tannins and a lingering finish. Food pairing - it pairs well with hearty fare and hard cheeses.

After careful sorting, the grapes are crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. As soon as fermentation is complete, the wine is pumped into concrete barrels to initiate malolactic fermentation – this softens the wine and adds a fuller, richer texture. The wine then ages in French oak barrels. After this, there follows a second year in large wooden casks, where the wine has time to develop and mature. After bottling, the wine is stored for a further ten to twelve months in cellar. Just under 1,000 cases made.