On the recommendation of a pretty serious Wine Guy, I stopped by Wild Ginger in Seattle’s downtown.  The menu was large, authentically Thai, and the wine list was pretty much a dictionary-sized tome of Thai food-friendly wines.  I was immediately in love.

Our expert barman, Nathan, skillfully guided us though the menu.  In the end, he also selected the dishes for us.  This is a great way to go when you’re eating in the bar- trust the experts!

We started with clams in a spicy broth, loaded with fresh green onions, cilantro and hunks of gorgeous warm tomatoes.

Next came the spring lamb skewers- spicy, grilled perfectly, and paired with a little sticky rice and some of the best peanut dipping sauce ever.

Nathan selected the Black Pepper Scallops for dinner, and alongside a plate of the most delicious green beans, laced with a house-pickled turnip I could have eaten all on its own.

As for the wine, we found a bottle of buried treasure deep inside that wine list- the 2001 Castello di Lispida, Amphora Bianco.  This wine is an experience.  Our sommelier, Andrea, brought it out with a decanter, perfect for opening up a wine this old with so many complex aromatics.  She decanted the bottle and immediately everyone else at the bar wanted to know what we were drinking- this wine is a stunning amber/gold color, and it’s pretty hard to ignore.

So we poured the wine for anyone who was interested in tasting… and this is when magic happens- when wines like this bring strangers together. For those who didn’t know what to expect from an amphora-aged wine, the reactions were a mix of interest, surprise and pleasure.  It’s a super perfumed, exceedingly floral wine with a gorgeous, honey-laced whiskey nose.  On the palate the wine is soft, generous, and showing its age with a very well-integrated acidity.  There is no perceived oxidation on the palate, and the tannins from skin-contact maceration give the wine a robust, structured mouth-feel.  Honestly with your eyes closed, this could be a red wine.

Castello di Lispida creates their Amphora Bianco with 100% Tocai grapes, indigenous to their region in the Veneto.  The grapes are gravity fed directly to the open amphorae, and after 10 days the amphora is sealed and left alone for 6 months. The skins are then removed and the clear wine is returned to the amphora and left to age for 8 months.  there are no added sulfites, and there is no filtration.  This is just about as ancient a process as you can find- probably very close to the way the Romans made wine in these same types of clay amphorae back in the 1700s.

The moral of this story is: Geeky Italian wines can be found anywhere, and they’re the perfect conversation-starter in a bar full of strangers, who can quickly become friends.  Salute!

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