The clouds parting after a quick summer shower at Monteraponi.
I learned a new sommelier-geeky-wine word this past week for an aroma we all know and love. “Petrichor” the name for the scent of fresh rain. The word was coined in 1964 by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas. It is a combination of the ancient Greek word petro (rock or stone) and ichor (the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods of Greek mythology. Poetic. Appropriate.
It could have been the time and place- the ancient stone buildings, the passing rain, the warmly lit rooms of Monteraponi- but I swear this bottle of Chianti Classicohad a little bit of petrichor enchantment. Clean, mineral, and whispering of something venerable and carefully well-preserved. Magic.
We stopped by Casa Emma for a tour of the winery, and as seems to be the custom everywhere we go- they immediately welcomed us, handed us a glass of wine, and started cooking.
This winery is in San Donato in Poggio, very close to Castellina. The elevation is about 420 meters above the sea, sprawling out over a beautiful hillside that is crested with a natural preserve. The sweeping exposure to sunlight, along with the oxygen-producing trees at the top of the incline, help make this vineyard a perfect little ecosystem for the grapes.
Casa Emmacultivates mostly Sangiovese, but also has some precious indigenous varietals as well. Their first Chianti Classico is made with 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cannaiolo and 5% Malvasia Nera. The Cannaiolo is relatively standard in these blends, but the Malvasia Nera is what helps really set this wine apart from other Chianti Classico expressions. There is a black fruit, plums and dried orange peel quality that the Malvasia Nera lends to the blend that I really like. It’s juicy and toothsome- dangerously drinkable, especially with a few slices of cured meat or cheese.
You’re in Tuscany, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery, your senses assaulted by the sights and smells of the sunny hills and beautiful wines. All of this perfection can make you hungry. Go to Baffoand eat Fried Chicken. I’m not kidding. This may have been the single most important culinary discovery of my life. Especially when paired with the right wines.
For example, we all know Lambrusco goes well with anything salty and fried, but it truly sang with this perfectly olive-oil drenched, crispy-juicy chicken.
Of course, when Luca D’Attoma, enologist to the stars and producer of his own amazing wines at the Duemanicomes along, he manages to somehow top the absolute perfection of this pairing.
With 1990 Sauternes. Cool, oily with sugar and just enough acidity to wake up your palate between crispy-juicy bites. The mouth-coating effect was also helpful when we ordered the spicy version of this pollo fritto- loaded with dried chili flakes and piping hot.
Thanks Luca, for introducing us to another of the world’s great food & wine pairings. Fried Chicken and Sauternes. Try it. You’ll like it.
Yes, I sell wine for a living and I write about my products here on this site. I am proud to represent the products in AI Selections portfolio. In my opinion, it’s one of the most interesting collections of imported wine around- that’s why I took the job.
In our industry it is customary that a salesperson “supports” her own products in her accounts. This means we drink our own wines- wines we have sold into these restaurants and wine bars.
The funny thing is, for the first time in my career I feel absolutely NO pressure to do this. AI Selectionswas founded by David Weitzenhoffer, former Wine Director for Felidia in NYC. If anyone appreciates the fascinating diversity of the wine world, and recognizes the sheer importance of knowing as many wines as possible, it’s David. Consequently, I do not feel I HAVE to order my own wines in our accounts.
I love having the opportunity to taste new and exciting wines being brought into the US by pioneering importers like Vinity. I happened upon LA salesguy extraordinaire Ned Teitelbaum at Terronithe other day and he let me taste this gorgeous little gem from a winery I had never heard of before: Azienda Agricola Lusenti, in the Colli Piacentini.
The wine is made from 100% Malvasia di Canida, a variety local to this part of Emilia-Romagna. The name Bianca Regina or “White Queen” is appropriate given the gorgeous and opulent aromatics of this wine- all tea leaves and jasmine, honeysuckle and lovely caramelized apricots. On the plate it is unabashedly saline, and vertical with acidity and a balanced and softly tannic structure, thanks to a 4-day maceration on the skins before pressing.
I was so excited to meet Massimo Fubelli and Chef Fabrizio Giorgi of Mosto Enoteca the other day at their lovely restaurant in Venice, California. I spent over a year living in Bologna, where one of my staple lunch or dinner items was the local iteration of Romagna’s sandwich: the piadina. Chef Fabrizio, being a local from Rimini, understands the art of this perfect little hand-held meal.
The warm, griddled flatbread was spread with a fresh, runny mozzarella- so fresh I thought it might be stracchino- then dotted with spicy arugula and draped with prosciutto. Done. Basta. The perfect example of fast, healthy, regional Italian cuisine. The key to simple dishes like the piadina is perfect balance between restraint and super high quality. Not too much of each ingredient allows every flavor and texture to shine through against that soft, warm slightly-chewy give of the piadina element itself.
Now these Mosto Enoteca just needs a real authentic glass of regional wine to go with that perfect sandwich.
The other day I visited the ladies of Culver City’s newly-minted Bar and Garden. Recently Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel rehabilitated an antique liquor store, and have turned it into a beautiful, airy, sunlight-filled space. Their selection of natural wines and small-batch spirits is pretty much unparalleled, and the whole operation is overseen by a quiet and affectionate pooch named Banjo. Now that’s what I call a great neighborhood shop!
Banjo, lovable mascot of @BarAndGarden. Clearly the camera loves him.
There are very few wines indigenous to the region of Lazio, and even fewer from the area close to Roma. That’s what makes the Cesanesegrape so very special. It’s unique, it’s esoteric, and it makes a seriously delicious wine in hands of capable and passionate winemaker like Damiano Ciolli.
His straight-forward Cesanese “Silene”is matured in large, neutral barrels. The wood does much less to flavor the wine than it does to simply help the exchange of oxygen during maturation. It’s a decidedly savory wine with notes of wild sage, wet earth and blackberry. Deep and rich- this wine is a shining example of the potential of Lazio’s wine making terroir.
I will be visiting this estate in person soon- can’t wait to see the vineyards in person and to revisit the wines closer to their birthplace. Damiano Ciollihimself is a sweet, jovial, handsome young winemaker, with a tendency to speak in rapid-fire, heavily-accented Italian. I am already equally as excited to see him again as I am terrified of attempting to translate for him. A presto, Damiano. Bravo!
I love this photo because it encapsulates what is so great about the wine industry. When wine people get together, horizontal tastings like this are inevitable. At a post-Vinitaly dinner we tasted these three wines together with the good people of Cantina Bolzano: a sure sign you’re dealing with a first-class winery when they are happy to match their wines up against some of the best in the world! Continue reading →