Archive for January, 2011

Stories from VINO 2011

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s Day Two back home, away from VINO 2011, also known as Italian Wine Week and the amazing blizzard of Snowcopalypse 2011 that turned New York City into a winter wonderland and La Guardia Airport into a near-deserted ghost town.
Actually, it wasn’t all bad, since this country boy thought all that snow muffled much of the incessant noise of NYC and softened all the angles, making the architecture and the shapes stand out against the big city background.
The Italian Trade Commission did a great job of seminars, trade discussions and tasting opportunities during the four-day fest, which I attended as a guest of the ITC. A working guest, that is, spending countless hours (well, i could count them, I suppose, if I really wanted to remember all of them) getting to know Italian winemakers large and small.
So many stories to tell, so few words. I ran each day into winemakers who took one look at my badge (“journalist” it reads, taking some liberties for a guy who’s nothing more than a reporter) and immediately started badgering quizzing me about finding them an importer. I really couldn’t help them, although I also spent hours badgering quizzing importers about what they were looking for in the way of new wineries and wines.
I mentioned this on the second morning to blogger extraordinaire Alfonso Cevola and he mentioned he had written about that very topic just before arriving in NYC. So I read his well-considered and finely balanced advice and went out to tell those winemakers they, too, should heed Alfonso’s words.
He’s right, you know. I also know Strappo (see the comments at the bottom of the “How to sell…” blog) makes a good argument, and to a certain point I heard similar comments from other small importers. But listen: Ace is right when he says there’s more than just having a lovely wine and the desire to tap the American pocketbook.
I tried some fantastic wines, whites that were light and fruity and sharp with plenty of acid to balance the palate and intense red wines with brooding depth and heft and heavyweight knockouts.
“Quanto di questo si fa a fare? (That’s supposed to mean ‘How much of this do you make?’ ” but my Italian sucks, I know.
“Umm, circa 18,000.”
“No, bottiglie.”
Talking to a small importer (meaning not Republic National or Glazer’s), I asked if he would take a delightful vermentino from a family-operated winery.
“Yeah, but I already got one vermentino, I don’t need two …”
How do you tell a delightful young couple to go back home to Italy and build their fortune there?
“… unless you are willing to sacrifice your first born to come to America, to become an American and work and live and make it happen, don’t dream any further.” Those are Cevola’s words, and he speaks with experience.
I can only hope those were snowflakes melting on their cheeks and not the tears of disappointment.

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New York, New York, an Italian (wine) type of town

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s late Saturday and all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…
Surely John Denver didn’t have me in mind when he wrote this song and the sentiment isn’t quite the same, since I’m not leaving a relationship but instead renewing one.
A relationship with Italian wine, anyway, since I’m headed for New York City and Vino 2011,the main feature of Italian Wine Week. I do hope this link works because Bresnan, the tyrant supplier of cable Internet service here in Grand Junction, can’t seem to find the website.
As it happens all too often, I get the “other suggestions” page from Bresnan, something totally useless for this. But that’s just a glitch.
The good news is I’m headed for a week surrounded and immersed in Italian wine culture, from seminars, tastings and lectures to interviews, tastings, meals, and more tastings.
As the title of this post says, this is the week Italian wines take over a town that already has plenty of Italian connections.
This is my third VINO and each year I return home with great memories and more wine-loving friends both Italian and want-to-be Italians.
Italian Wine Week doesn’t actually represent all 20 Italian wine regions but rather the regions of Apulia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Tuscany and Veneto. That’s enough for one week, though.
As sort of pre-Vino preparation, I’ve been sipping some delightful Italian wines I received over the past month or so in anticipation of the coming week.
Although the wines of Arnaldo Caprai of Montefalco in Umbria won’t be at VINO 2011, I recently received a sample of his 2007 Montefalco Rosso ($23 srp), a blend of 70 percent sangiovese, 15 percent Sagrantino and 15 percent merlot.
Dark, dense, with pleasantly bright red fruit and a luxurious feel on the palate. It’s a lovely wine, a delightful introduction to wines from Montefalco and a treat to be sipping as the evening comes and snow drifts through the skies of western Colorado.
I also have tried Caprai’s Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni, a DOCG wine developed initially in 1993 to celebrate the winery’s 25th anniversary.
I wasn’t very familiar with Sagrantino and find it makes dark, ruby-black wine with plenty of dark fruit (blackberries and what one friend insists is the mythical “bumbleberry“) and “hints of spice and vanilla transcended from the barriques,” as the tasting notes say.
Caprai has done in depth research and development with the Sagrantino grape, which may date from 1 BCE when Pliny the Elder mentions what might be an early Sagrantino varietal. According to the website, “As Sagrantino does not show any resemblance with other varieties that grow in central Italy, researchers claim that Sagrantino’s origins are exclusive to Montefalco, while others believe that Sagrantino originally came from Asia Minor and it was taken to Montefalco by followers of San Francis of Assisi.”
Anyway, it’s a delicious, full-bodied red wine that will be even more outstanding after another decade of aging.
Finally, even though it’s late, I couldn’t resist opening the 2007 Lucente from Luce della Vite, a venture between the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family of Florence and the Robert Mondavi family of Napa Valley.
The 2007 Lucente ($30 srp) opens with notes of dark plums and blackberries, dark chocolate and coffee. It’s very round, showing great balance between dark fruit, tannins and hints of French and American oak.
This is a terrific wine and I’m sorry you aren’t here to try it, but then I have only four good wine glasses and two of them are busy at the moment. It’s very good.
Gee, that’s a lot of words just to say I’m off to New York for more great Italians wines.
See you next week.
(It’s now Thursday and since I’m still in New York City, waiting for someone to shovel the runways at La Guardia Airport, I updated this entry to reflect more accurate information about Arnaldo Caprai.)

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